With everyone’s focus currently being on the Administration’s efforts to ram government run healthcare down the throats of an unwilling public, little attention has been paid to the disastrous trade policies of this Administration.

Just last week, Brazil imposed trade sanctions on the United States for our anti-competative subsidies, the latest in a number of countries that have begun to take action against President Obama’s anti-trade stance. As we have stated previously, one of the hallmarks of President Obama’s first year in office has been his radical protectionist stance

As James James Pethokoukis, the Money & Politics columnist for Reuters Breakingviews, notes:

Obama has not nudged Congress to pass long-stalled treaties with Colombia, Korea and Panama. Instead, the emphasis has been on get-tough actions such as slapping preliminary duties on tires from China and bricks from Mexico. Nor has he tried to energize the Doha trade talks, pushing Brazil to first litigate via the World Trade Organization and now retaliate. And in the U.S., high unemployment has encouraged protectionist forces in Congress. A bipartisan House group just introduced a new bill to abandon the North American Free Trade Agreement, while one in the Senate is pushing for action against China because of its weak currency policy.

And the situation could worsen. To appease Congress and continue its recent populist tilt, the Obama administration will likely toughen language about China in the Treasury Department’s April report on currency policy. The next step would be to declare China a currency manipulator in the October report, right before the November mid-term elections.
If Obama really wants to rebuild America’s international stature and boost the global economy, trade is a perfect place to start. At the moment, world trade is projected to expand by just 4.3 percent in 2010 and by 6.2 percent in 2011, according to the World Bank. Not good enough, given a big drop in 2009. Once healthcare is either passed or defeated, Obama needs to get that trio of trade agreements passed. And he needs to defuse tensions with China. In short, Obama needs to lead.

Leadership in terms of promoting free trade – critical to our consumers and our economy – would be quite a good thing for the Administration to do. It will create jobs, boost economic growth, and increase living standards for all Americans.

But I’m not holding my breath.