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January 24, 2008

A new American trade policy by Austan Goolsbee, Gary Gensler, Kevin Hassett and Leo Hindery

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

Maybe this sounds like a bad joke, but what do Austan Goolsbee, Barack Obama's economic advisor, Gary Gensler (Clinton campaign) Kevin Hassett (McCain) and Leo Hindery (Edwards) have in common? (hint: it's not exhaustion from the campaign trail or a common love for walks on the beach...as far as I know)

They all want CHANGES TO OUR TRADE POLICY!!

Today at the New America Foundation, 2008 presidential campaign advisors discussed their visions for the economy in an Obama/Clinton/McCain/Edwards administration.

When asked about trade, here are the highlights (loosely transcribed or listen to the MP3 of the full event - fast forward to about a quarter way thru for these answers - or video below)

Gary Gensler (HILLARY CLINTON): "Sen. Clinton is very much an internationalist. We're all part of the global world. Whatever everyone's definition is of globalization is, it's here and part of the fabric of the world and what we're dealing with. On trade though she has stated and believes in smart trade, but it's not really worked for all Americans. Listening to people, to middle income Americans we should look at every trade agreement and make sure it's working for America. This administration has brought only 16 enforcement actions- the same as Bill Clinton brought in one year. We need to add enforcement, make sure we address labor and environmental standards as was the case with Peru - that it was equally enforceable alongside the commercial agreements, that we assess where we are in all these trade agreements at least every 3 years after they're entered into and every 5 years thereafter. Just take a moment to look at how they're working for Americans. And move forward with smart trade to make sure it works for Americans."
 
Austan Goolsbee (BARACK OBAMA): "I'm a University of Chicago economist and no one is ever going to be more in favor of open markets and free trade than an economist, so you would presume I'd be for anything that has the words 'free trade agreement' in it and all I'll tell you is this: I do believe there's no one more in favor of open markets than me and that said, if you look at a free trade agreement - if you have never read a free trade agreement I encourage you to go read it - because it is as close to the economists' case for free trade as our tax code is to the economists' case for the ideal tax system. If you look at these 900-page agreements, they're two pages of what every economist says "yeah, that's great" - opening tarriffs - and then 898 pages of loopholes. It looks just like the tax code - of protect this company and make sure they're getting their money and these investor protections - and so I think that the case for open markets is different than what you think about this, that or the 146 trade agreements that were signed in the 1990s. And Obama has been trying to get us away from what I call the false choice that either you're for every single thing the administration has done or else you're a protectionist and you're against America's role in the international economy, but neither of those is true. There are perfectly grounded things oriented around opening markets and expanding American presence in the world that I think we can have pretty general consensus on and I agree with Garry - one thing that we should have general consensus on is if a country signs an agreement with the United States that says they're gonna do a, b and c, that they should do it. If they don't do it, we should pursue the means in the WTO or otherwise that makes sure everybody abides by the agreements that they sign, so it strikes me that there is common ground here."
 
Kevin Hassett (JOHN MCCAIN): "I think that the trade area is one where you need to be very very careful allowing thoughts like smart trade to leak in, because there's so many politically important interests that are opposed to free trade and the fact is that free trade benefits millions and millions of Americans a little bit at a time and harms specific big money interests like a textile mills and a lot of other examples - like a sugar company in a very very focused way and so there are all of these parochial interests opposed to trade that can be very politically important, and so Sen. McCain is an unabashed free trader, and I think he agrees with Austan's analysis that it would be better if our free trade agreements moved towards being a couple of pages rather than 900, but I've found during this campaign the discussion of trade the most disturbing for me as an economist. I thought the part of President Clinton's record that I respected the most was his trade record and very aggressive pursuit of free trade, and it seems to me that all the Democratic candidates but especially Mrs. Clinton have kind of apologized for that record when the right thing to do for all of the little people - the guys out there who benefit from free trade - is to celebrate it."

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