A Tariff That “An Instinctive Free-Trader” Supports
One of the most disturbing issues of the 2008 campaign for many business publications was then Sen. Obama’s position on free trade issues. As a Senator, candidate Obama voted against Free Trade with Central America; worked to shelve a Free Trade Pact with Colombia (which only reduced tariffs in Colombia, the US had no tariff); worked to shelve a Free Trade Pact with S. Korea; campaigned against NAFTA and generally against any business where products were traded without tariff.
So it was downright bewildering when heretofore supporters of Free Trade such as The Economist would claim the Obama was an “instinctive free-trade” – he must have been voting against his instincts in a counter-intuitive ploy. Or the Washington Post Op-Edder imagining “the real pro-growth candidate in this campaign looks to be Barack Obama” because provided that as President, Obama does a 180, “then the gap between his trade views and McCain’s doesn’t much matter. I am not convinced that voting for someone because you assume the he will reverse his position, but it works for the Post. The Financial Times tiptoes to the real question..”which is likely to be friendlier as president to the cause of multilateral free trade? Careful scrutiny suggests that the odds are in favour of Mr Obama.”
Never fear, The Economist again, in a work of pure fiction, leads…President Obama “has shown signs of shedding the protectionist baggage he brought to the White House.” So, how has this shedding been made manifest? The Washington Post has it right this time. In hearings to approve the new Brazillian Ambassador, the question of the the 54 cent per gallon ethanol tariff came up, prompting the Obama administration has issue a letter promising “no plans” to reduce the tariff.
So given the 9 Billion gallons of ethanol used by the US in 2008, at 54 cents a gallon, lets see, that makes Obama a Free Trader, except for a $4.86 Billion tariff on imported ethanol. Given that Brazil is a long term allie of the United States, it seems ridiculous that we are taxing a (sort-of) renewable fuel while subsidizing its production elesewhere.
So how about it Economist? Financial Times? Are $4.86 Billion in tariffs a “good sign” that our President is a Free Trader?
John Powers is the President of the Chicago Daily Observer
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