So far, if Obama's picks for Treasury and Commerce are any indication of the administration's view of what is to come for global sourcing, we should all grab our pandering protectionist handbook. For it looks like special interests are going to win at the expense of the invisible hand. Now, you could argue that Bush was just as bad when it came to trade, but I believe Obama is shaping up to be even worse, despite the rosy-colored lens that the mainstream media is putting on so far. Consider how many of his picks -- and Obama himself -- would sooner trade with communists in Cuba than capitalists in Colombia (the Cubans don't threaten union jobs as much, I suppose).
Or consider Obama's apparent protectionist shortlist pick for the top trade job. According to the above-linked New York Times article -- and we all know the political slant of its writers -- "If President-elect Barack Obama appoints Representative Xavier Becerra, Democrat of California, as his chief trade negotiator, it would punch several political tickets at once for Mr. Obama ... Mr. Becerra, who has emerged as the leading candidate to become United States trade representative in the Obama administration, is known as a defender of workers' rights and as a skeptic of trade agreements."
I applaud Obama's early effort to help interject some common sense into the economic stimulus discussion. I think he is right to focus on infrastructure first over tax incentives or tax cuts (for anyone, for that matter). But I think on the trade front, he's looking to be the same left-wing protectionist that I warned of on Spend Matters throughout the campaign season. If you're engaged in global sourcing, get ready for a new round of policies designed to increase the cost of imported goods, all in the spirit of "fair trade" and worker's rights (which will in turn raise the cost of US goods in other countries as we get retaliative tariffs slapped on our exports).
- Jason Busch