New White House Tougher on Trading Partners

Trade nominee vows renegotiated pacts, tougher enforcement
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2009 8:01 AM CDT
In this Dec. 19, 2008, file photo President-elect Barack Obama's US Trade Representative-designate Ron Kirk speaks at a news conference in Chicago.   (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson, File)
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(Newser) – 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.
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