Political Capital with John Harwood

Trade Politics: What Will Turn Into Trade Policy?


When Erin Burnett's show "Street Signs" called me to talk trade this afternoon (see video below), the question was "Is Trade Dead?" I thought, for this Congress, it was--until I did a little reporting.

As it happens, Republican and Democratic leadership sources both expect SOME progress on trade before the 2008 elections. Both the Peru and Panama bilateral deals are expected to go through. The Colombia and South Korea deals are not.

Nor will the Doha Round be completed, or "fast-track" negotiating authority be extended under President Bush. But better to think of this as a stall than a permanent collapse. Democrats are responsive to their union base and less inclined toward free trade than Republicans. But they also care about their reputation, especially important to all their affluent donors on Wall Street and elsewhere, as modern stewards of the economy. Bill Clinton did, as Alan Greenspan pointed out in his recent memoir praising Clinton.

Is Free Trade Dead?

Don't expect Hillary Clinton, if she's elected, to be much different. But Democrats in Congress know they'd get a much more congenial trade policy, by their lights, under her than under the Republican incumbent.

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