Brookings just issued a report entitled "Top 10 Global Economic Challenges Facing America's 44th President." The introduction and one of the chapters were written by Lael Brainard (who has been mentioned as a possible U.S. Trade Rep. in an Obama administration). One of the chapters in the report is by Paul Blustein, and is called "Reimagining Global Trade." I was struck by some of the prescriptions he sets out there:
The new U.S. administration should make it clear from the outset that its trade policy will be multilateral in focus; this can—and should—be coupled with a shift away from bilateralism:
>> Shoring up support for trade: Perhaps most important of all, the new president must shore up support for trade, both in Congress and in the public at large; otherwise, no new trade agreements of any kind may be possible. This will entail bridging gaps on Capitol Hill over the key issue of whether trade agreements must contain enforceable standards for workers’ rights and environmental protection. But much stronger steps will also be required on the domestic front, to expand the social safety net and health care. Mitigating Americans’ legitimate worries about the disastrous impact of job losses is essential to turn the debate away from NAFTA’s revision and toward enhancing the system that has underpinned the expansion of global trade for the past 60 years.
>> Breathing new life into the Doha Round: The new president will have a historic opportunity to breathe new life into the Doha Round by proposing to broaden the negotiating agenda to include issues such as the food crisis and climate change. It is conceivable, of course, that such an approach will encounter such stiff opposition from other nations that it will prove impractical; if so, the administration should not turn to bilaterals and regional deals as an alternative but instead should pursue agreements in particular sectors (such as services) under WTO auspices with countries that are willing to liberalize.
>> Proposing a moratorium on bilateral trade agreements: In addition, the president could propose a moratorium on bilateral trade agreements, a step that would be welcomed by many poor countries, which fear being marginalized in an increasingly splintered world of trade.
Bhagwati aside, it's rare that I see such a strong condemnation of bilateralism. These statements seem particularly significant given Lael Brainard's association with the report and her role as an Obama adviser. Would an Obama administration put the brakes on bilateral trade agreements?