January 22, 2013


Exports Sagging? Try Some Free Trade : The president did little to open markets during his first term. Here's hoping for the second one. (MATTHEW J. SLAUGHTER, 1/22/13, WSJ)

Amid slow economic growth abroad and little movement in the American dollar, the key to spurring U.S. exports is aggressive policy liberalization. Yet how many new U.S. free-trade agreements were negotiated and ratified during President Obama's first term? Zero. How many new agreements look likely to be negotiated and ratified in 2013? Zero. For America to achieve the president's National Export Initiative goal, these zeros must soon be replaced with bold new trade agreements.

These agreements should carefully target countries and industries. That can make a real difference. No disrespect to our 20 current free-trade-agreement partner countries, but last year they collectively accounted for only 10.5% of global GDP. China alone accounts for about the same amount. Why not negotiate a China-U.S. free-trade agreement?

Most estimates peg the U.S. as the world's single-largest exporter of services. In 2011, American exports of services--in technology and entertainment and including tourism to this country--were worth $604.9 billion. Given that America's long-standing and growing trade surplus with the rest of the world ($179 billion in 2011) reflects a comparative advantage in strengths that should be cultivated at home, including skilled labor, information technology and organizational capital, why not negotiate a global free-trade agreement in major service industries like consulting, entertainment and software?

To work, such trade agreements cannot be mercantilist: They should open U.S. borders to foreign exports as well as foreign borders to U.S. exports. 

Posted by at January 22, 2013 7:33 PM

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