Abstract from Bruce Stokes's Guest Lecture presented at the Treasury on 13 September 2007.
Bruce Stokes is the international economics columnist for the National Journal, a Washington-based public policy magazine. He is coauthor of the recent book America Against the World: How We Are Different and Why We Are Disliked (Times Books, 2006), based on the Global Attitudes Project, a survey of 110,000 people in over 50 countries on changing public values and attitudes. A former senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Stokes is currently a journalism fellow at the German Marshall Fund and a consultant to the Pew Research Center. Bruce is in New Zealand for the U.S.-N.Z. Partnership Forum. His visit is supported by the U.S. Embassy.
There is rising concern worldwide about alleged growing protectionist sentiment in the United States. Such concerns are overblown, but still worth watching. A number of trade critics were elected to the House and Senate in the 2006 election and polls show a slight up tick in anti-trade sentiment. But majorities still think trade is good for the country and for them personally. Evidence of actual protectionist action is almost non-existent, especially when compared with actions taken by the United States in the 1980s. Nevertheless, with the trade deficit likely to reach three-quarters of a trillion dollars this year, with a third of that likely to come from China, with a potential slowdown in the U.S. economy, and an election in the offing, the U.S. can be expected to be more critical of trade than in the immediate past. Prospects for further trade liberalization are slim. Non-official Washington has little faith that the Doha Round will be completed. Free trade agreements with Peru and Panama may pass Congress, but the deal with South Korea is questionable and the one with Colombia almost impossible. Tougher trade legislation has been threatened for years, but has yet to materialize. A watered down bill pressing the Chinese to appreciate their currency has some chance of passage this fall, as does some as yet unwritten legislation dealing with the safety of imported Chinese products. On the whole fears of protectionism are overblown. But the environment for trade will get tougher in the years ahead.