Trade as the Decider



To bolster what Ryan Avent is saying here, I don’t care how much of a free trader you are, it’d be bizarre to make trade policy the decisive factor in your presidential preference this year. It’s clear enough that neither Barack Obama nor John McCain is going to somehow repeal NAFTA or undo the WTO. Meanwhile, it’s also clear enough that neither Obama nor McCain is going to get the new congress to agree to any major new trade agreements. Beyond that, the collapse of the Doha Round makes it seem like even a president very eager to sign new trade agreements would have difficulty coming up with any new ones to sign.

Trade is an interesting subject, but it just not a policy area likely to shift a great deal over the next few years no matter who wins. The most important trade-related thing we could do at this point has to do with agriculture, but structural issues in American politics that have nothing to do with the identity of the President make it very unlikely that anything will change. If you really care about moving the ball forward, trade-wise, what’s needed is some smart ideas about practical approaches to farm policy reform.