How Obama can fix America's trade problems
In regard to the Jan. 13 editorial, "A trade fix for Obama's stimulus": This editorial assumes that international commerce is a win-win situation. In reality, it is a competition to secure markets that support domestic jobs and growth. With $700 billion in annual trade deficits, we are losing this contest. Foreign nations use a wide variety of import barriers, subsidies, currency manipulation, and patriotic sentiment to gain their surpluses.
Governments are correct to shield their national firms during downturns. The firms that survive will then benefit from economic recovery. Even the "free trade" Bush administration finally figured this out in regard to the American auto industry, long battered by subsidized foreign rivals.
Unfortunately, President Bush did not realize this in regard to his stimulus packages. Too large a portion of his tax cuts was spent on imports, leading Business Week to say in April 2003, "The fiscal and monetary stimulus of the past two years has helped global producers as much as US companies." The recovery from the mild 2000 recession was thus very slow.
President-elect Obama has said he wants to create jobs that cannot be outsourced. This will require a change in trade policy. In a world of rivals, free trade is irresponsible by definition.
William R. Hawkins
I find it hard to believe that NAFTA is still being touted as part of the solution to America's current economic crisis. President Clinton's support of NAFTA and deregulation of the banking industry was the bane of his presidency, and helped George W. Bush to run this country, in his own words, "like a CEO." And run it, he did, straight into the ground.
If we hope to save our democratic republic, and the future of the US dollar, we must encourage President-elect Obama to keep his word about reforming NAFTA.
I think there is a way to have free trade while increasing exports and reducing imports so as to close our trade deficit: a trading system. The government could establish a trading system, similar to our stock and bond markets, where anyone importing goods would have to go to the market to buy a "trade certificate" equal to the value of the imported goods. In similar fashion, anyone exporting goods would receive a trade certificate for the dollar amount of the goods, which they could then sell on the open market. In this way, the cost of imported goods would be increased slightly while exporters received a subsidy. Such a system could help close our trade gap.
Kenneth E. Gould
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Bush's India legacy is bright
Regarding the Jan. 15 editorial, "Judging Bush with a bird's eye": Future historians may indeed be less severe on the tenure of President Bush and some of the monumental blunders during his years given that his term was marked with perhaps the most tumultuous geopolitical shift in the post-cold-war era. Regardless, in Indo-American relations he'll always be remembered as the US president who brought the two greatest democracies of the world closer with emphasis on strategic ties and shared values. For India, Bush's time in office marks a sharp departure in traditional US foreign policy outlook on South Asia and the shattering of its many unrealistic expectations and delusions vis-à-vis Pakistan.
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