Third Party & Independents Archives

Bush's Trade Protectionism and Election Strategy

One of the most cynical (and justly derided) executive decisions of the Bush administration was the imposition of “safeguard duties” on European steel imports. Republicans generally have a free trade agenda, but this stood out as a curious exception, presumably because steel-producing states were vital to Bush’s 2000 election victory.

Now that WTO has ruled against the US , the EU is preparing $2.2 billion of retaliatory duties on US imports of footwear, fruit and vegetables. The EU targeted duties against industries in key tossup states like Florida—yes, Europe understands the US electoral system all too well.

I have two questions:

  1. Bush probably will rescind the tariffs, staving off the trade war. Will his "gesture" still win him political points with "steel state" constituencies? Is this a way for a politician to have his cake and eat it too?
  2. When political leaders make symbolic gestures (like "flag burning amendments") to appease constituencies, how can other candidates turn these gestures into political liabilities? When the WTO rules that you have violated international laws, does that fly in the political arena? Or is the voting public generally too unfocused to catch these things?

My future posts will highlight instances where candidates of either party cave in to their beliefs for the sake of political expediency. Say what you want about third party candidates, but the certainty of not winning prevents them from making these deals with the devil.

More on subsidies. Despite the free-trade mantras of our political parties, the US actually imposes all sorts of trade barriers on African imports. African presidents AMADOU TOUMANI TOURÉ (Mali) and BLAISE COMPAORÉ (Burkina Faso) wrote about why US Subsidies are Strangling Africa :

In the period from 2001 to 2002, America's 25,000 cotton farmers received more in subsidies — some $3 billion — than the entire economic output of Burkina Faso, where two million people depend on cotton. Further, United States subsidies are concentrated on just 10 percent of its cotton farmers. Thus, the payments to about 2,500 relatively well-off farmers has the unintended but nevertheless real effect of impoverishing some 10 million rural poor people in West and Central Africa.
Posted by rjnagle at July 11, 2003 2:38 PM