CAUTION! The following is the second in a series of hyper-critical blogs on why US Trade Representative Kirk is a woeful failure at his job.
Congratulations are in order for US Trade Representative Ron Kirk for achieving another milestone toward his ultimate goal of dismantling his office.
The latest success came in the introduction this week of the President’s fiscal 2013 government-wide budget. Billed as a trade enforcement budget by Administration officials, the money proposal to Congress suggests a boost in trade enforcement funds by $26 million – of which $24 million will go to a new trade enforcement center within the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration. Two million dollars – a little less than 8 percent of the increase – will be allocated to USTR.
The last I’ve heard is that USTR’s job is to negotiate new trade rules – either bilaterally, regionally or multilaterally – and then enforce those rules through the World Trade Organization or other tribunals. Commerce’s ITA has a hard-working staff within its foreign commercial service which quietly and effectively resolves some real-time problems that US exporters have on the ground. But, except for litigating import cases, it has no real expertise in trade warring.
Under terms of the new budget proposal, USTR – along with other agencies, including the Small Business Administration, the US Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the tiny US Trade and Development Agency – will feed into the new coordination role of Commerce.
So USTR becomes a bit player in the process?
The last self-destructive move by USTR Kirk was his failure to even moderate President Obama’s "brain-child" of an idea to construct a super Commerce Department, which would encompass the other trade-related agencies – minus those in the Agriculture Department and State Department. USTR would be a subservient part of that restructured bureaucracy with no special role.
The singular – and initial – mistake made by Mr. Kirk was to pull the rug out from under the 10-year-old Doha Development Agenda multilateral trade negotiations. By doing so he essentially undercut his own agency’s reason for being.
The only optimistic scenario that can be seen for the near future is the election of a Republican to the White House. Leading Republican candidate Mitt Romney has already said as President he would move quickly to call a summit of Western Hemisphere leaders because the region has been largely ignored by the current Democratic Administration. Under "Republicanship" you can also look to US strong backing for a real re-start to the Doha trade round in Geneva.