U.S. Export Growth on Track, Thanks to China

The biz media are predictably hailing the small decline in the U.S. trade deficit in October as good news for the economy, but this morning’s monthly trade report from the U.S. Commerce Department is yet one more sign that the U.S. and global economies are struggling. Continue reading

Will Congress Welcome Russia into the WTO?

Next week trade officials representing the more than 150 members of the World Trade Organization will gather in Geneva for a ministerial meeting. Most of the agenda will be a snoozer. The Doha Round is stuck in neutral, with no compromises in sight on agricultural protection, services trade liberalization, or anti-dumping reform. But one item of business will mark a major milestone: the admission of Russia into the club of trading nations. Continue reading

U.S. Still “On Track” to Double Exports by 2014

In his State of the Union address in January 2010, President Obama launched his National Export Initiative with the explicit goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2014. The Commerce Department’s monthly trade report released this morning confirms that U.S. exporters remain “on track” to meet that goal—to my pleasant surprise.

I went on record earlier this year with skepticism that the goal was realistic. And to my defense, we are still less than two years into the journey. Doubling exports in five years requires an annual growth rate of almost 15 percent, about double the average rate of export growth during the past 30 years. Continue reading

Another Immigration Message from Arizona

Last year sometime, when the Arizona immigration law S.B. 1070 was big news, I was preceded on a cable TV talk show by an Arizona state senator who had sponsored the legislation. As I sat in a remote studio in Washington, I could hear the senator in another studio rattle off what seemed an unending list of people in his state who had allegedly been killed by illegal immigrants. Knowing that the state’s violent crime rate has actually been declining and is the lowest it has been in 40 years, I thought to myself, “This guy is a first-class demagogue.”

Apparently his constituents agree. Continue reading

Gov. Perry and Those DREAM Act Kids

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been beaten up in recent GOP presidential primary debates over his signing of a bill in 2001 giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrant kids in Texas. Look for the issue to come up again at tonight’s debate in New Hampshire.

In a free society, so-called DREAM Act legislation would be unnecessary. Opportunities for legal immigration would be open wide enough that illegal immigration would decline dramatically. And higher education would be provided in a competitive market without state and federal subsidies. But that is not yet the world we live in. Continue reading

With Friends like Sen. Sessions, Free Trade is in Trouble

According to a story in Politico today, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama has been whipping his Republican colleagues to vote in favor of the China currency legislation that appears to be headed for passage in the Senate. (My Cato colleague Dan Ikenson has explained  why raising tariffs on imports from China would be a mistake.)

The Politico story says that Sessions is “traditionally a proponent of free trade,” but his actual voting record indicates otherwise. Continue reading

Finally, a Vote on the Three Trade Agreements

Almost a thousand days into his term, President Obama has at last submitted the trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama for an up or down vote in Congress.

All three agreements appear to have majority support in both the House and the Senate. Organized labor is putting up its usual anti-free-trade fight against all three, with AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka coming out swinging in a Politico op-ed this week. He makes the standard union argument that Colombia is an unworthy free-trade partner because of ongoing violence against union members in that country.

In a Free Trade Bulletin earlier this year, my Cato colleague Juan Carlos Hidalgo and I examined the commercial benefits of the agreement with Colombia as well as the hollowness of the union charge. In the past decade, Colombia has made tremendous progress against violence in general, and especially violence aimed at union members. In fact, as we write in the FTB:

The statistics on the number of killings against union members vary depending on the source, with the figure from the government’s Ministry of Social Protection being lower than that of the National Union School (ENS for its acronym in Spanish), a Colombian nongovernmental organization affiliated with the labor movement. However, both sources show a steep decline in the number of killings since 2001. Moreover, when compared with the total number of homicides in the country, killings of union members clearly have dropped at a faster rate than those of the general population.

Critics of the FTA fail to recognize that violent crime affects all levels of Colombian society, not only trade unions. What is more, the statistics show that union members enjoy more security than the population at large.

Looking at the homicide rate as defined by the number of murders per 100,000 inhabitants, the rate for the total population in 2010 was 33.9 per 100,000, whereas the rate for union killings was 5.3 per 100,000 unionists that same year (using the statistics of the ENS). That means that the homicide rate for the overall population is 6 times higher than that for union members.

Having just returned from a speaking trip last week in Medellín, Colombia, I can vouch that, after a difficult period of battling Marxist guerrillas and drug cartels, Colombia has once again become a normal country with a growing economy. Medellín is a bustling, business-oriented city with the usual challenges of traffic congestion. The students I spoke with at EAFIT University seemed eager for closer ties with the United States, and they do not understand why it has taken almost five years since the signing of the agreement for Congress to schedule a vote on it.

As I explained in an interview with the city’s leading newspaper (conducted in English, but translated here in Spanish), the politicians in Washington have run out of excuses for not establishing free trade between our two countries.

[Our Cato colleague Doug Bandow made the case for a trade agreement with South Korea in a study we released last year.]