Yesterday, Barack Obama gave his first big foreign policy speech as a presidential candidate.
He says about trade:
We cannot negotiate trade agreements to help spur development in poor countries so long as we provide no meaningful help to working Americans burdened by the dislocations of the global economy.
This statement sounds harmless enough, but what exactly is it saying? What exactly is the connection between trade and development? The coded sentence may refer to WTO negotiations, which corporate lobbies have argued will help development in poor countries. But the civil societies of these poor countries do not agree, and the World Bank's own data (PDF) - when coupled with UN projections on government revenue losses - show that the poorest countries under the WTO's Doha "development" Round will be net losers.
And the greatest impact on U.S. workers from current trade policy is NOT those that are dislocated - actually losing their job - but on the entirety of the workforce that sees stagnant wages and rising inequality (PDF). Bob Kuttner of the American Prospect recently wrote that it would take $2 trillion to adequately retool the American social safety net to deal with trade's impact. Is that in one of Obama's position papers? We'll be waiting.