The media are depicting the failure to reach agreement on revisions to a US-Korea free trade agreement as a sign of President Obama's political weakness in the wake of the midterm elections. A better explanation is that trade is a divisive domestic issue, with many Democrats and now Tea-Party Republicans dubious of the benefits of these agreements. A new Pew survey documents these attitudes, showing that over half the people believe that trade deals lead to job losses at home and nearly half believe that they lead to lower wages for Americans. It will take more than a chorus of economists singing a different tune to make trade agreements politically popular.
I remain concerned that the Administration's "National Export Initiative" is a hope-based strategy rather than a set of actions that can really boost US exports. So far, there isn't even a legislative package that could smooth the way.