President Obama’s calls to avoid protectionism haven’t been followed-up with action in the U.S. to open markets and reduce barriers to trade. Instead, what we have is an Administration reluctant to set any sort of trade agenda and the result is three stalled trade agreements, retaliation by governments to the U.S.’ “Buy American,” provisions, and a missed opportunity to speed up the economic recovery by enacting policies that will boost trade and make all involved better off.

In the coming weeks, President Obama must decide whether he will place a 55% tariff on tires imported from China. This would follow the recommendation of the U.S. International Trade Commission after hearing a case brought by the United Steelworkers earlier this year.
The United Steelworkers strongly backed Obama during the election and have now decided its payback time. The Steelworkers believe the tariffs would help U.S. tire producers increase investment in domestic manufacturing but in reality tariffs discourage industries from modernizing or becoming more efficient – why modernize when you’re shielded from competition? Rather than competing in the international market, the Steelworkers want to force American drivers to pay more for goods that could be purchased more cheaply from foreign distributors.