Why U.S. foreign economic policy will take the lead in 2013

Your humble blogger has been eating as much creme brulee as humanly possible in Paris attending a German Marshall Fund/Science Po conference on the 2012 election.  Any conference where Mo Fiorina, Bruce Cain, and Greg Wawro talk shop is gonna be fun.  Any conference where I'm on a panel with James Mann is gonna be... daunting.  

That said, it was William Burke-White who made the most interesting policy observation.  He argued that regardless of who would be president in 2013, it would be foreign economic policy that would take  center stage for U.S. foreign policymakers.  The more I think about it, the more I'm pretty sure he's right. 

This is true in part because of what's in the pipeline already.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are already under wa, with additional countries joining in.  In the WTO, momentum to launch a plurilateral International Services Agreement is growing.  The European Union and United States are "pre-negotiating" a transatlantic economic agreement that wouldn't exactly be a free-trade agreenent but is definitely more important than, say, a bilateral investment treaty.  Speaking of which, the Obama administration finally crafted its own model bilateral investment treaty (BIT), and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced that BITs were being negotiated with China and India.  Obviously, international trade and foreign direct investment take place regardlesss of whether these agreements exist or not -- but they do suggest greater levels of liberalization, particularly in the service sector. 

Now, surely, you must think, whoever wins the election will affect the status of these agreements.  Except that I don't.  All of these deals are being negotiated by the Obama administration, so I think we can assume that the prsident has signed off on them.  If Mitt Romney wins, I don't see him rejecting any of these agreements.  If anything, he'll try to add to them.  More free trade deals is part of his five point plan to create 12 million jobs that will be created regardless of who is president. Intriguingly, when he's mentioned this plank in the last few debates, he mentions Latin America in particular.  A shameless play for the Hispanic vote?  Maybe, but I don't care. 

Furthermore, regardless of who wins Congress, these are the kinds of deals that still fall under that shrinking category of "doable in a reasonably bipartisan fashion."  If Romney wins I can see the Democrats in the Senate playing a bit more hardball -- but most of these deals would likely go through. 

A United States that is both willing and able to sign more economic agreements is a good thing for the country -- oh, and it's a good thing for my argument that, contrary to expectations, global economic governance is doing a pretty decent job

So, I'm intellectually happy... and I'm in Paris.  I haven't felt less cranky since the start of the 2012 presidential election!  So au revoir until Monday!! 


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