Author of Saving Democracy!, Wasted Genius and Common Genius

Obama’s Treaties & Free Trade: The Devil’s in the Details

Almost everyone approves of signing treaties to eliminate nuclear weapons, environmental damage, and restrictive trade policies. However, if the treaties fail to provide for such beneficial results they are not worth the paper they are written on. Further, if the detailed language in the treaty allows a continuation of what was supposed to be outlawed, the treaty is harmful in allowing just what it was supposed to forbid. That dual disadvantage has been a hallmark of recent U. S. treaties that Messrs Kerry, Obama, and Mdme Clinton have been signing with great fanfare.

The recent nuclear treaty with Iran gives them access to billions of dollars for agreeing to limit their nuclear production but with an approval of their having full nuclear capability within 10 years. They win-win. We got nothing in return. They kept their American hostages and keep fomenting terrorism in the Middle East. Plus we cannot even inspect their compliance without weeks of advance notice!  They got a lot, we got nothing!  And, the recent environmental agreement with China allows their continued annual increases in pollution emission for over 20 years at which time they agreed to stop increases. Our part of the deal was that we would keep decreasing pollution each and every year. They didn’t even agree to reduce pollution after 20 years. What good is such a treaty?

Finally, on free trade, we “negotiate” treaties that actually hurt us, limit our ability to export, and yet give the other signers access to our markets. Again, the agreement is a one-way street—helping others and hurting Americans. For example, for years we have made agreements limiting tariff duties on automobile shipments between Japan and America. So far, that’s good. But Japan imposed a clause allowing them to “inspect” the cars we ship there, which in practice put them in isolated yards for months before they ever passed inspection. This unfair practice hurt our companies more than a high tariff and limited our sales to Japan while Japan companies enjoyed free access to our markets.

These not so subtle aspects of treaties shows that one can be a free-trader and still condemn the unfair trade treaties that our administrations have been signing. It is incredible that our negotiators are so naive as to enter into such flawed treaties. That is why Trump is fully justified in saying he will make trade fair and force our trading partners to play fair. What good does it do to allow fair trade for others while hamstringing our own people? This is just another example of why we need simply good management instead of ideological bickering and photo-ops from our leaders.