The Herald reports:
The United States has put on hold scheduled talks with the grouping of Trans Pacific Partnership countries – including New Zealand – while key appointments are being made to the Trade Representative’s office, including congressional confirmation of US Trade Representative Ron Kirk.
President Barack Obama’s new Administration also wants to review its position on free trade before beginning talks which the US signed up to last September when George W. Bush was still in office.
If the delay is only due to the first factor – key appointments not yet made – then it is not a big problem.
It is the second factor – the review of the US position on free trade – that is far more of a threat.
Obama’s rhetoric was strongly protectionist during the Democratic primaries. If that represents his true position, then we have real problems.
However a senior Obama staffer was exposed telling the Canadian Government to ignore what he says about NAFTA, which suggests it may have been rhetoric only.
I admire John McCain’s free trade stance – he supported free trade agreemenets with basically every country on Earth, only excluding those they have security issues with (half a dozen countries such as North Korea, Cuba, Iran etc).
Bush had free trade rhetoric, but would ofen go protectionist to appease domestic pressures. McCain was a wonderful opportunity to actually turn the US away from protectionism.
If the US and Europe dropped their tariffs on goods from Africa, that would do more to lift many in Africa out of poverty than any amount of aid.