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Free Trade Trouble

President Obama is pushing for two big new trade deals – in the Pacific, with Europe. Democrats are resisting. We’ll dig in.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second right, speaks with his country's Trade Representative Michael Froman, as New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, second left, speaks with his Trade Minister Tim Groser, left, at the Trans-Pacific Partnership meet in Bali, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013. Leaders of the dozen countries involved in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership met in Bali after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit to work on plans for a free trade area they hope will eventually encompass the entire region. (AP)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second right, speaks with his country’s Trade Representative Michael Froman, as New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, second left, speaks with his Trade Minister Tim Groser, left, at the Trans-Pacific Partnership meet in Bali, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013. Leaders of the dozen countries involved in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership met in Bali after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit to work on plans for a free trade area they hope will eventually encompass the entire region. (AP)

In 2014, Americans have had a lot of experience with global free trade.  It was 20 years ago this month that the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, went live.  We’ve seen and learned.  Now, President Obama is pushing for giant new free trade deals across the Atlantic and the Pacific.  And it’s rough going, starting in his own party.  Harry Reid may have driven a stake through the heart of the trade push yesterday.  It’s high stakes for labor, industry, jobs, global competition.  This hour On Point:  free trade now, and “high noon” for big deals with Europe and the Pacific.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

William Mauldin, international economics and trade correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. (@willmauldin)

Jim Kolbe, senior transatlantic fellow for the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Former 11-term Congressman (R-Arizona). Strategic consultant to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy Research. (@markweisbrot)

From Tom’s Reading List

Wall Street Journal: Reid Deals Body Blow to Obama on Trade — “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid broke publicly with the White House Wednesday on trade policy, instantly imperiling two major international trade deals and punching a hole in one piece of the economic agenda the president outlined in his State of the Union address a day earlier. Mr. Reid told reporters he opposed legislation aimed at smoothing the passage of free-trade agreements, a vital component to negotiating any deal, and pointedly said supporters should back down.”

The Guardian: NAFTA: 20 years of regret for Mexico — “Our neglected infrastructure aside, it is easy to see that NAFTA was a bad deal for most Americans. The promised trade surpluses with Mexico turned out to be deficits, some hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost, and there was downward pressure on US wages – which was, after all, the purpose of the agreement. This was not like the European Union’s (pre-Eurozone) economic integration, which allocated hundreds of billions of dollars of development aid to the poorer countries of Europe so as to pull their living standards up toward the average. ”

Washington Post: In Davos, nations vow to extend global trade deal — “WTO Director-General Robert Azevedo said negotiating process must be transparent and inclusive, so every member can have a voice and participate, but that ‘the do-ability test is very important” in working toward an expanded free-trade deal that balances “ambition and realism.’ The Bali deal could boost global trade by $1 trillion over time, and its centerpiece was an agreement on measures to ease barriers to trade by simplifying customs procedures and making them more transparent.”

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