Friday, June 3, 2011

Doha and Election Year Politics

The “caution” light is on in the White House. Like a traffic signal, the White House amber signal advises going slow before turning “red” to avoid a potentially drastic accident. The political light turns red in November – when political campaigning gets underway “hot and heavy.”

It is now the beginning of June and the first major Republican Presidential candidate – former Massachusetts Governor and popular Mitt Romney – has thrown his hat into the ring. More notables will do so in the weeks ahead – prior to August.

Politicos at the White House are looking around now for possible campaign “accidents.” Hence the mystery over the US position on the Doha Development Agenda negotiations which survived two Presidential elections.

Countless studies over the years have shown that implementation of even the most aggressive Doha agenda would have very little impact – hardly noticeable – on the US economy.

Politically, though, an agreement would provide fodder for President Obama’s opponents. On the liberal Democratic side – including especially the labor wing of the party – the President’s hold already is tenuous. Agreeing to a trade-opening trade agreement would be more than enough to erode current support from liberals – already ready to abandon the President. A third-party liberal candidate on the scene could do the trick. With the White House taking responsibility for concluding a “job-losing”, “NAFTA-style” multilateral trade agreement, that support would go over the edge.

The few Republican moderates who remain in the America populace – many of whom supported Obama rather than back conservative John McCain and his vote-devastating running mate – would readily abandon the President without much thought.

The Administration cannot afford for purely domestic political reasons to take a chance and conclude the Doha negotiations.

Passing the three pending free trade agreements – soon, however, – is okay because of US Trade Representative’s Ron Kirk’s successful endeavor in repainting those Bush Administration agreements. Although little changed in substance, all three – with Colombia, Panama and South Korea – are now “job-creating” endeavors and integral aspects of the President’s National Export Initiatives.

WTD quoted an anonymous negotiator in Geneva just after the last Presidential election three years ago who said the already nearly decade-old trade negotiations will have to wait another four years for substantial negotiations to go forward once President Obama is elected to a second term and can pursue his agenda generally unhindered by election-year politics.

So the “caution” light is on.

Any comments?

Jim Berger
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