On December 11, 2009 the Program on America and the Global Economy of the Woodrow Wilson Center hosted a group of international trade experts to discuss the future of U.S. trade policy as it relates to the new administration and how it could impact both the U.S. and the global economy. The event began with introductory remarks made by the Director of the Program on America and the Global Economy, Kent Hughes, who moderated the event.
First on the panel to speak was the International Economics Columnist for the National Journal, Bruce Stokes. Stokes, in addition to being a columnist, is also an author, an editor, and a Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund. After touching on a number of pressing issues in U.S. trade policy, Stokes proceeded to highlight the importance of the current account deficit. Recently at 6% of GDP, Stokes emphasized the need for the current account deficit to drop to 3% of GDP in order for the U.S. to fully take advantage of international trading opportunities.
Following Stokes on the panel was Terence P. Stewart. Stewart, editor of the book, Opportunities and Obligations: New Perspectives on Global and US Trade Policy, and the Managing Partner of Stewart and Stewart, a law firm that focuses on international trade and customs law, focused his remarks on the Doha Round of trade negotiations and how they might be brought to a successful close. While the Round has proceeded with varying degrees of progress throughout its existence, Stewart maintained that it could still be concluded successfully if portrayed in the right light to the public at large. Stewart also argued that while a number of emerging markets have seen an increase in their negotiating power, there is "Not of a lot of leadership from the new countries that have a seat at the table."
Next to speak was Jason Kearns, Trade Counsel for the House Subcommittee on Trade within the Ways & Means Committee. Kearns approved the following summary of his off the record remarks; he provided a congressional perspective on a range of trade policy issues of the day, from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, to "Buy American" requirements, currency manipulation, and concerns over global trade imbalances.
The final panelist to speak was Bloomberg News trade reporter Mark Drajem. Drajem, who has reported from locations around the world, including India and Pakistan, argued that our current trade policy has stalled. According to Drajem, the current round of trade negotiations has stalled and suffers from a perception problem due to the repeated delays. Drajem also posited that it could be worthwhile to step back and more accurately assess the value of any proposed trade deals before entering into any new agreements.
While each panelist provided a unique perspective and focused on a specific issue as it relates to U.S. trade policy, one thing that all the panelists could agree upon was the fact that America could benefit from a substantive discussion on trade policy. Stewart remarked that, "We haven't had a serious debate in Congress on trade policy in twenty years." In summarizing the event, Hughes noted that that the discussion was in keeping with the mission of the Wilson Center to bring together scholars and academics with policy makers in order to find common solutions to important public policy issues.
By Clark Taylor
Kent Hughes, Director, Program on America and the Global Economy