Thursday, November 20, 2003

Our free trade hypocrisy

With all the promotion of free trade by the Bush administration, I am continually amazed by how protectionist it is. The EU, supported by the recent WTO ruling against American steel tariffs, is threatening sanctions of its own on politically sensitive American products unless those tariffs are repealed. The Bush administration is taking time to think things over, as if the WTO ruling were ambiguous. Ironically, the steel tariffs, while perhaps saving a few steel worker jobs, have hurt American consumers of steel with higher prices.

As if that weren't enough, the administration has announced that it will impose quotas on the imports of certain Chinese textiles and clothing. This is technically legal under the WTO agreement with China (I can't find the specific text, but I believe that the US can impose product specific quotas on hyper-increasing imports for 12 years - aren't we sneaky?) . Strangely, these quotas are likely to do little for the virtually nonexistent textile manufacturing industry in the US. Will someone tell me what this administration means by free trade?

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