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Election 2012: U.S. Trade Policy and What to Expect

November 5, 2012

What would be the international economic policies of a reelected President Obama or a newly elected President Romney?
-Scott Miller, senior adviser, Center for Strategic & International Studies

What would be the international economic policies of a reelected President Obama or a newly elected President Romney? The candidates’ stump speeches and campaign ads give few clues—beyond agreement on China’s practices being villainous. Setting aside this characterization of our third-largest (and fastest-growing) export market, what can we conclude from each campaign’s public statements?

Let’s start with the challenger. Governor Romney’s overall vision—“free trade is essential to restoring robust economic growth”—puts him in the mainstream of U.S. presidents since Franklin Roosevelt. Importantly, two of Romney’s “Five Bills for Day One” focus on international trade and global competitiveness. The “Open Markets Act” would reinstate trade-promotion authority, while the “American Competitiveness Act” would reduce corporate income tax rates and transition to a territorial system, which would boost U.S. exporters that compete globally with foreign-headquartered firms. The Romney campaign website mentions other initiatives, like enhancing trade with Latin America and creating “Reagan Economic Zones,” but offers few details.

 

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