11/16/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Washington Post Spreads Myths That Trade Enforcement Will Hurt Climate Change Agreements

My breakfast nearly fell out of my mouth when I read this line about the China Tire Case on the front page of the Washington Post:

a chorus of economists and climate activists fretted that the president's action might undercut U.S.-China climate talks and poison relations just two weeks before the summit of the Group of 20 major economies.

Chorus of climate activists? What chorus?

The Washington Post makes it sound like there is some huge army of environmental activists angry as all hell over the decision to enforce China-U.S. trade agreements by imposing tariffs on illegally imported tires. However, the Washington Post fails to cite a single environmental activist saying that this trade decision will hurt climate talks.

In fact the very opposite is true. There is a chorus of environmental activists saying that we do need to enforce trade laws like we did in the China tire decision. Organizations like the Sierra Club and the Blue-Green Alliance have traditionally called for the enforcement of trade laws in order to protect the environment.

Trade agreements all have sections in which countries agree to certain environmental standards. If we don't enforce certain sections of trade agreements related to export, why would countries uphold their end of the deal when it comes to issues like climate change?

As President Obama pointed out in his speech on Wall Street this week:

No trading system will work if we fail to enforce our trade agreements. So when, as happened this weekend, we invoke provisions of existing agreements, we do so not to be provocative or to promote self-defeating protectionism. We do so because enforcing trade agreements is part and parcel of maintaining an open and free trading system.

In other words, it's necessary to maintain the rules of the road in order to maintain trust in the system that parties will live up to the end of an agreement.

So why then is the Washington Post spreading lies that somehow enforcing trade agreements will hamper our ability to forge climate agreements? A big part of it could have to deal with the fact that big multinational corporations, as Dave Johnson has pointed out repeatedly, have spent millions of dollars building a network of think tanks, lobbyists, and media consultants to push lies against fair trade. (I would highly suggest you read Dave Johnson's three-part expose on the inner workings of the trade debate in D.C.)

These think tanks and lobbyists develop cozy relationships with the reporters like those at the Washington Post. Indeed, several companies planned to sponsor salons as part of the Washington Post's quickly aborted pay-for-access scheme.

So if you see a lie such as that enforcing trade agreements will hurt effort to combat climate change, it's good to do what a famous Washington Post reporter once said: "Follow the money."