Late Friday night, when most people were tucked soundly away in their beds (or more likely out enjoying the beginning of their weekend), the Obama administration decided to finally set a trade policy agenda and the result sent shivers down the spines of free trade and taxpayer advocates alike.
Bowing to pressure from the United Steelworkers union, President Barack Obama made the decision to place a 35 percent tariff on tire imports from China. China has already signaled the possibility of retaliatory tariffs on U.S poultry and auto parts.
“This is trade protectionism at its worst and a worrying sign as to where trade policy is headed under the Obama Administration,” stated Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, “Obama has put the interests of his union supporters above the interests of taxpayers. Make no mistake; a tariff is nothing more than a tax on international commerce, increasing the economic burden on consumers, all to protect a small industry not willing to compete in the marketplace.”
It is equally disconcerting that the calls to enact the tariffs were made only by the Steelworkers and not the U.S. tire industry. The United Steelworkers strongly backed Obama during the election and have now decided its payback time. So the lesson learned here is Obama would rather bend to the will of special interests than do what is good for the economy as a whole.
President Obama’s past calls to avoid protectionism haven’t been followed-up with action in the U.S. to open markets and reduce barriers to trade. As the G20 meeting in Philadelphia draws near, President Obama has a lot of explaining to do as to why his words have been met with the oppsosite action.