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Protectionism has Risen
A terrific, racey piece from Clay Risen at TNR about the dangerous rise of protectionist sentiment. Its title - The End of Free Trade - is, of course, absurdly dramatic. But Risen is particularily good on how the Bush administration's warm words hide a melange of base politics (steel tarrifs), a conspicous lack of leadership (doha) and political cowardice (the rest) to leave the case for open markets much more vulnerable at the end of his Presidency than at the beginning:
Bush is seen by many as having given up because the political consequences at home are too great. Consider: the bruising battle over the Central American Free Trade Agreement, the successful opposition to the bid by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation to buy Unocal last year, the Dubai Ports World fight this year, the near-failure of a trade deal with Oman, and the possible failure of a similar deal with Peru. All a consequence of protectionist sentiment in Congress, all instances where Bush's supposed trade leadership was hampered by domestic political concerns. With the midterm elections coming, it's a good bet that Bush doesn't want to hurt his party any more than he already has--and pushing GOP congressmen to back more free-trade efforts would hardly help. This may be no-brainer politics at home, but, to the rest of the world, it is a dismaying retreat.