I want to start a series on various issues where I think conservatives ought to show leadership. Up first on the docket -- defending free trade.
As I was listening this morning to a very interesting Blogging Heads TV clip between Mickey Kaus and David Frum (they have a very good blurb about 2012), I was struck by a comment that Kaus, a Democrat, made. He admitted that the Democratic Party is dominated by large, special interest groups, like the labor union and the education union. Part of the conservative cause should be going Chris Christie on these folks.
Of course, labor unions are against free trade because they want to protect their labor interests. Actually, more precisely they want to protect their power. However, the great bulk of empirical research conducted by economists since the days of Adam Smith is so largely in favor of free trade that there is very little debate outside of Labor and socialists/left wing circles. In short, when President Obama obeys labor interests, it is not because he is intellectually convinced of their agenda. It is just politics plain and simple.
Several areas where Republicans should speak up:
1. Colombia and Panama: John McCain recently met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and told him that the Republicans plan on pushing ratification of the free trade agreement with Colombia, as well as Panama. The deal with Colombia was signed by President Bush in 2006, before being stalled for 18 months in Congress. In 2008, the Democrats refused a vote on the treaty.
2. South Korea: President Obama has decided to renew attempts at ratifying an agreement with South Korea that has floundered in the Senate since 2007, when President Bush was behind it. Democrats refused to vote to ratify it then because of restrictions that South Korea placed on American beef imports. Now, it is likely that those same Democrats will change their minds and accept the restrictions. Republicans should point out the hypocrisy as they push to have this treaty ratified.
3. Mexico: In 2009, President Obama violated a long standing NAFTA agreement by refusing entry into the United States to Mexican truck drivers. Obama's decision flared up a minor trade war with Mexico, as our southern neighbor responded with retaliatory tariffs against 90 US agricultural and manufactured products worth more than $2 billion a year. Now, nearly two years later, the Obama administration has hinted that a new deal to allow Mexican trucks on American roads could be "up and running" in 4-6 weeks. Republicans should put pressure on the Obama administration to follow through on its most recent plan. The retaliatory tariffs, by the Obama administration's own admission has greatly impacted U.S. farmers and exporters.
4. Latin America and beyond: Republicans should lead the way in forming free trade agreements with the rest of Latin America and beyond. China and other Asian countries have for the past decade been showing more interest in our southern neighbors. If we don't act now, we can lose a golden opportunity. Even Canada is now focusing its attention more on Latin America.
Cross posted at The Cross Culturalist.