Thomas Friedman recently wrote a wonderful column about the many foreign policy accomplishments of President Obama. From deposing Muammar Gaddafi in Libya to finally capturing Osama bin Laden, President Obama has been very successful in promoting stability, democracy, and freedom around the world.
Yet it was when Mr. Friedman talked about the many world problems still left to solve, from confronting Iran to dealing with Pakistan, that the talk turned towards trade. As Friedman explains, in many of the world's problem spots, America has been unable to solve big problems because of lack of "leverage". He writes (emphasis mine):
And where states are stronger -- like Russia, China and Iran -- we have less leverage because leverage is ultimately a function of economic strength...The only way to gain more leverage on China is if we increase our savings and graduation rates -- and export more and consume less. That isn't in the cards.
To hear that increased American exports isn't an option is unacceptable to me. The truth is that by putting an end to the era of giveaway trade policies, we can stop giving away America's power around the globe.
China is already supplanting the United States as a global super power in the eyes of people around in the world. In a Pew Survey earlier this year, a majority of citizens in 15 of 22 nations believe that China either will replace or already has replaced the United States as the world's leading superpower. Even among some of our "friends" in Europe (France, Great Britain and Germany) a vast majority of citizens see the United States as weaker than China- either now or in the near future.
Their views are backed up by facts. Though not often discussed, China is now the largest trading partner with the European Union, and has made concerted efforts to forge economic and political ties with countries around the world- from South America to Africa and Asia. In the coming years these economic and political ties will pay dividends when needed the most- and help China continue to expand its influence around the globe.
Much of China's growth has been driven by smart policies designed to help Chinese citizens- an approach that the United States should emulate. Yet some of it has been driven by unfair trade practices- practices the United States government has been too timid to stop.
I've introduced a bill that would end unfair trade practices before we open the American market any further. The Reciprocal Market Access Act would put in place new protections for American manufacturers to take quick and effective legal action against unfair trade. The bill would also prevent the US government from ever passing another free trade deal that fails to protect against "non-tariff trade barriers", where unfair trade practices are often found. I believe in the power of trade, but I know that we must make sure that trade is fair if we are to get our economy on track and compete with China in the years to come.
In the end, this competition isn't about attaining the title of "superpower" for title's sake. This international competition is about expanding freedoms for people around the globe. If we are to build upon the Arab Spring, the liberation of the Libyan people, and the flowering of individual rights around the world -- our work starts at home. By defending American manufacturers and the American jobs they create, we can increase our "leverage" and promote the principles of freedom and democracy around the world.
Follow Rep. Louise Slaughter on Twitter: www.twitter.com/louiseslaughter