The Obama administration is taking a harder line with trading partners, reworking policy to emphasize priorities from unemployment at home to climate change, the Washington Post reports. The White House will seek to renegotiate trade deals with South Korea and Colombia and will demand broad concessions from other countries at global trade talks like Doha. Ron Kirk, Obama's nominee for trade envoy, told Congress yesterday, "I do not come to this job with deal fever."
Kirk's testimony echoed other administration statements that tougher labor and environmental standards will be required for new trade deals, along with stricter enforcement of existing deals before the WTO. Global trade has suffered its steepest decline in 80 years as the US and other nations shore up their own domestic industries. That has raised fears of protectionism among some economists, not least thanks to the "buy American" provision in last month's stimulus package.