Global Trade and the State of the Union

SOTUUnsurprisingly, the State of the Union address focused primarily on the domestic economy. President Obama emphasized issues such as the looming sequester and the need for immigration, entitlement, and tax reform. In terms of major announcements on the international trade front, the President revealed that the US aims to start talks with the EU towards creating a “comprehensive transatlantic trade and investment partnership.” This is a significant development for a multitude of reasons. A free trade partnership between the US and the EU would streamline trade by reducing regulatory barriers and tariffs, thereby expanding the already huge amounts of exchange. Not only would a transatlantic free trade agreement heighten the interconnectedness of these two massive markets, it would drive growth, deflect increasing competition from China, and would help reestablish the authority of the United States and Europe as leaders of the global economy.

The President also announced that the US is on course to finish negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement that will substantially increase US trade presence in the Pacific. There was no date given about when the talks would be complete, but it appears that things are falling into place. In addition, the President outlined some domestic economic policies that were relevant to global trade issues. For instance, President Obama’s unveiling of the “Fix-It-First” program, which intends to put people to work on urgent infrastructure repairs, could improve US trade performance through more efficient and faster travel times. Smart Grid enhancement would make the US a more appealing place to do business and it would protect vital information trade-lanes from cyber disruptions. The energy boom, both through enhanced fossil fuel production and clean energy development, will allow the US to dramatically increase its energy exports and could fundamentally transform the global energy trade. Through the creation of innovation centers, President Obama wants to accelerate the continuing trend of re-shoring in order to increase US export trade.

While domestic issues were clearly the main theme of the address, it is vital that President Obama address the larger context issues of global trade to enact policy that will take advantage of new economic opportunities. It would also be a mistake to underestimate the potential of trade as a key engine of economic growth for the US and the global community. A secure and healthy global economic structure is important in order to maintain further international stability.

Posted by: Matthew Goldberg

Sources: Wilson Center, United States Trade Representative, ABC News, Department of Energy

Photo Credit: Presidential Seal courtesy of flickr user Dave Newman

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