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May 21. 2012 7:37PM

Unfair trade: Obama stalls, China wins

Unfair foreign trade hurts New Hampshire. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the state lost 16,300 jobs between 2001 and 2010 because of China's trade practices. No other state was hit as hard. The Census Bureau reports that since 2008 imports to the Granite State from China have risen more than 40 percent while our exports grew by a paltry 3 percent. Thanks to Beijing's protectionist trade barriers, for every dollar's worth of goods New Hampshire sells to China, we now buy almost three.

Most Democrats and Republicans agree that the Chinese government's trade policy is to lie and cheat about illegal subsidies and currency manipulation as its companies steal our technology and copyrights. This isn't a partisan issue; both parties demand action. But despite Barack Obama's professed concerns about American workers, his administration has failed to protect our economy from its most aggressive and unethical foreign competitor.

In his State of the Union address this January, the President did promise to fight for fair trade. “I will not stand by when our competitors don't play by the rules. ... It's not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they're heavily subsidized. Tonight, I'm announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trading practices in countries like China.”

But “investigating” a problem that has been studied for decades is not a step toward actually doing something. It is a way to stall for time.

When he pledged action in January, the President actually hadn't created anything at all. It took his White House more than a month to prepare a brief executive order simply authorizing a new panel. Top administration trade officials then told the press that America would be “doubling down on the administration's commitment to strong trade enforcement” in 90 days when the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center opened.

What has really been done four months after the President's grand promise? Not much. A director was just chosen by the Secretary of Commerce. That top post went to a veteran government attorney who will keep his old job enforcing fair trade laws for the U.S. Trade Representative. In other words, the administration is “doubling down” by betting on the same staffer who was responsible for controlling this problem. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Will the selection of this Washington insider at least get the shiny new bureaucracy up and running quickly? No. According to Dow Jones, the commerce secretary now says “the center should be fully operational by the end of next year, with up to 60 staff.”

So if the President is re-elected, don't expect any real progress before January 2014. That's two State of the Union speeches away. New Hampshire will continue to lose jobs this year and next while China continues to ignore international laws and weakens America's economy. But at least there will be 60 more bureaucrats fully employed in Washington.


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