Now that Fat Tuesday is over, we've thought of ten things USTR should give up for Lent to avoid unnecessary policy failure and political disaster, if not eternal damnation:
- Going to the first Obama-era Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks (March 15-19) to represent the "U.S. position" without having consulted with the congressional Democrats and Democratic base groups who expect USTR to deliver on Pres. Obama's campaign commitment to create a new U.S. trade agreement model.
- Allocating limited USTR resources to trade negotiations that hold few prospects for expanding exports or creating jobs. (Um, for instance like the TPP - given the U.S. already has trade pacts that zero out tariffs with the four prospective TPP partners - Australia, Singapore, Chile and Peru - that comprise over 85% of the combined GNP of countries involved in TPP talks.)
- Continuing to ignore the growing China trade disaster. (Even as the 2009 annual trade data showed that the global economic crisis had suppressed overall trade flows, China's share of the U.S. trade deficit increased.)
- Disregarding the TRADE Act, given it represents the majority view among House Democrats about what TPP and other trade negotiations should and should not include.
- Only discussing exports, not imports - and the related Bush-era talking points. (Giving this up would be aided by disconnecting the direct hotline between the offices of USTR Ron Kirk and Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue.)
- The Doha Round - after all these years, it's pretty clear that the agenda forced in 2001 ain't cutting it. Time for a new agenda for multilateral trade expansion.
- The hangover Bush FTAs with Colombia, Panama and Korea. (What Democrats have forgotten the 1994 congressional midterm wipeout lesson about what happens when a new Democratic president pushes a NAFTA-related trade agreement inherited from a Bush?)
- Prioritizing WTO compliance over necessary climate solutions.
- Obsession with killing food safety rules in other countries. (Has Michelle Obama read the 2009 National Trade Estimates report?)
- Empty rhetoric on transparency and accountability (in favor of actually doing the comprehensive, inclusive trade policy review promised in early 2009.)
And, just as giving up most of the things that people give up for the 40 days of Lent is actually a good idea for the rest of the year too, we think these should stick.
Have a good Ash Wednesday!