Two items in today’s Wall Street Journal “Washington Wire” indicate the Administration might be wising up on the free trade front. Ambassador Karan Bhatia, who is off on a five-nation Asian trade mission, commented from Manila:
“Political support for free trade is weaker than it has been in many years,” he said, citing “the recent public discussion in the United States on the issue of foreign investment,” alluding to the uproar over a Dubai investment in U.S. port operations as well as U.S. skepticism about China and the Central American Free Trade Agreement. “In a way we have not seen for years, economic isolationists on both ends of the political spectrum are reasserting themselves.”
Maybe the Dubai Ports fiasco really did splash cold water on the White House’s face and wake them up to the building hyper-nationalist and protectionist sentiments for which they themselves must take some blame.
On that front, Treasury officials are now said to be leaning against labeling China a “currency manipulator,” which they rightly suspect would further inflame and enable protectionists in Congress. Even considering such an erroneous policy has given cover to economic imbeciles and their dangerous legislative proposals. Speaking of, Sens. Schumer and Graham are leaving for a weeklong trip to China, said to be Schumer’s first official foreign trip in his 25-year Congressional career. We hope they learn something about the wider world.