The State of Trade blog may seem like a relaxed, informal space for trade policy talk, but we’re actually a stickler for message discipline. We only usually blog about one of WCIT’s 2013 Policy Priorities, and the impact that those policies have on Washington’s international competitiveness. However, every once in a while, the urge strikes us to remark on the impacts of trade policy in a broader context…especially when trade policy keeps showing up in the news. Which is why we call this recurring segment the “Washington Trade Policy News Round-up.” And, boy oh boy, this week’s round-up is full of the intersection of trade and political controversy.
Some of you may have heard that some guy named Edward Snowden sort of leaked a whole bunch of top secret information from the National Security Administration, and he’s busy bouncing from country to country looking for political asylum. What you may not have noticed is that there’s a trade policy link if he ends up going to Ecuador. According to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “If Snowden is granted asylum in Ecuador, I will lead the effort to prevent the renewal of Ecuador’s duty-free access under GSP and will also make sure there is no chance for renewal of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act. Trade preferences are a privilege granted to nations, not a right. I urge President Correa to do the right thing by the United States and Ecuador, and deny Snowden’s request for asylum.” Ecuador’s response so far has been, “That’s cool, we don’t want your trade preferences anyway.”
The other trade policy news of the week was President Obama’s big climate change announcement. Although it mostly focused on his executive authority to regulate power plants and other related activities, he also included in his announcement a plan to launch WTO negotiations on lowering trade barriers to environmental goods and services.
Neither of this issues are WCIT policy priorities, nor are we engaged in them in any way. But it sure is fun sometimes to see how trade policy finds its way into all sorts of issues you wouldn’t expect. In fact, with the coming July 4th holiday, we’re about to celebrate the United States’ independence from Britain, which started with a protest over the export and import of British tea (hence the Boston Tea Party). So, as you’re barbequing burgers, watching fireworks and reading the latest on President Obama and Edward Snowden with your (imported) smart phone or tablet, remember that trade policy is a key part of all those activities…