Stimulus Through Trade

Conn Carroll /

Former-Rep. James Bacchus (D-FL) writes in today’s Wall Street Journal:

President-elect Barack Obama is rightly focused on preparing a stimulus plan to “jolt” the American economy toward recovery. Yet missing thus far is any mention of international trade as part of his plan.

Democratic presidents — Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Carter and Clinton — have long been advocates for trade. What about Mr. Obama?

Will Democrats approve the pending free-trade agreement with Panama? American workers and businesses could clearly benefit from their fair share of the contracts for the pending $5 billion expansion of the Panama Canal.

Will Democrats approve the pending free-trade agreement with Colombia? American workers and businesses would certainly profit from the proposed tariff cuts in that agreement that would, according to the White House, result in $1 billion annually in new exports. Ninety percent of imported Colombian goods already enter the U.S. duty-free.

Will Democrats make the successful conclusion of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Round of global trade negotiations an immediate and high priority? Offers already on the table in the Doha Round would, over 10 years, create $120 billion annually in additional market access for developed and developing countries alike.

This would all boost the American economy without adding a dime to the federal budget deficit.

But above all, Democrats must have the courage in this time of crisis to resist protectionist calls for building new barriers that would supposedly shelter us from the global economy. The last time Congress tried the protectionist approach during a time of economic crisis was in 1930. The Smoot-Hawley tariffs deepened and prolonged the Great Depression, and contributed to the outbreak of World War II.