An observer quipped to National Public Radio the other day that “normal” is not acquainted with the presidential campaign of 2016.
Nowhere is that remark more relevant than in the arena of trade and America’s position in the global marketplace.
The campaign has seen an orgy of anti-globalization liberalism from Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who has apparently dragged his opponent to the left. If we remember correctly, Hillary Clinton, a former senator from New York, seems to have the last name of the president who brought about the giant North American Free Trade Agreement.
NAFTA now seems like a dirty word, even as it has helped to generate new economic growth both in the United States and in its partner nations, Mexico and Canada.
Normal? Clinton was transparently reacting to Sanders when she detected flaws in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. Despite her general support for all things on President Barack Obama, asserting that Sanders has been too critical of the current administration’s policies, this trademark trade achievement of the president is now suspect.
Normal? The normal party of free trade is the GOP, but Republicans are now seized with the same kind of madness.
The GOP front-runner apparently believes that incompetent U.S. trade negotiators have for years allowed the Chinese to filch American jobs. Donald Trump’s cure would be worse than the disease, a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports.
The good news is that this economic illiteracy is not taken entirely seriously, because if this was a normal presidential election year, stock markets around the world would be in a free-fall and American trade partners around the world in a tizzy.
Because this is not a normal election, perhaps the wacky things that candidates say are taken with more of a grain of salt.
But what is good from Louisiana’s perspective, as a major trading center on the Gulf of Mexico? The notion that both parties might draw back from good business deals with foreign trading partners ought to be a matter of real concern.
Our state is the outlet via the Mississippi River for not only our products but for those of half the states. The TPP with friendly nations around the Pacific’s rim will further open markets for American products, including Louisiana’s specialty chemicals and food from our state’s farmers and ranchers as well. Our ports, including New Orleans and Baton Rouge but others as well, benefit from open trade policies.
What is normal about this election year? It is that candidates who today bash free trade, who seek the votes of critics of an open global economy, are people who end up as president.
Just as a young senator Obama harshly criticized trade agreements on the campaign trail in union-heavy states of the Midwest, it is not rare to find candidates talking bad policy in this arena. Normal, if not sensible.
But as president, Obama has had to recognize the benefits to the overall economy in trade agreements with other countries. We applaud his support for bringing TPP to the point that Congress can and should adopt it.
We hope that one element of normality would be that today’s trade critics would be converts to the cause from the Oval Office.