Bush, Obama, and Trade Wars


Political scientist Dan Drezner on the differences between Bush and Obama when it comes to trade wars: 

When the Bush administration did what it did, it was fulfilling a campaign promise to the state of West Virginia steelwokers.  Fortunately, the rest of Bush's winning political coalition was not seeking trade relief.  So the protectionist instinct pretty much ended with the steel tariffs—and everyone in the Bush administration knew that they'd be overturned by the WTO eventually.

With the Obama administration, however, this feels like the tip of the iceberg.  Most of Obama's core constituencies want greater levels of trade protection for one reason (improving labor standards) or another (protecting union jobs).  This isn't going to stop. "Trade enforcement" has been part and parcel of Obama's trade rhetoric since the campaign.  The idea that better trade enforcement will correct the trade deficit, however, is pure fantasy.  It belongs in the Department of Hoary Political Promises, like, "We'll balance the budget by cracking down on tax cheats!" or "By cutting taxes I can raise government revenues!"  It.  Can't.  Happen. 

If I knew this was where the Obama administration would stop with this sort of nonsense, I'd feel a bit queasy but chalk it up to routine trade politics.  When I look at Obama's base, however, quasiness starts turning into true nausea.

Whole thing, at Foreign Policy, here.