In many ways the Bush Administration has fought hard for free trade … but they are far from perfect. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the White House finally lost its four-year effort to defend cotton subsidies from a complaint by Brazil in the World Trade Organization. If the US fails to turn away from the current drift towards protectionism the costs will be high:

If the U.S. refuses to act, Brazil now has the right to retaliate against U.S. products to the tune of $4 billion. That price will be paid by U.S. exporters in fewer sales, and by the American workers who make those exports, or perhaps in seized intellectual property. In other words, the cost of subsidizing wealthy U.S. cotton growers – which was $3.3 billion in 2005 – just about doubled.