The Democratic Trade Agenda:

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), the incoming Finance Committee Chair, has an op-ed in today's W$J outlining his vision of "A Democratic Trade Agenda." Is it a good one? That's hard to tell. Here's a taste:

At a time when our country's competitive strength depends increasingly on an aggressive trade policy, Americans are far less willing to embrace one. Many equate trade and globalization with ballooning deficits, stagnating wages and layoffs. Meanwhile, even as China and India have continued their economic reawakening, America has lacked the leadership to tackle the associated challenges through trade. U.S. policy has lurched frantically from one trade agreement to the next, eking out just enough votes to push each one through Congress.

Some think that the new Democratic congressional majority will be bad for trade policy. While it is true that some candidates criticized trade in their campaigns, I believe that the new Congress will have both the desire and opportunity to renew U.S. trade policy, with a unifying purpose that Americans can understand and support. Through trade, we must bolster the nation's innovative economy in an increasingly global marketplace. At the same time, we must tackle with equal vigor the negative domestic consequences of globalization, from trade deficits to job losses.

On the one hand, it's a good sign that Senator Baucus wants to renew fast track authority and recognizes the importance of international trade ot the American economy. On the other, the op-ed can hardly be called a ringing endorsement of free trade, particularly insofar as it endorses greater trade enforcement, increasing export subsidies, and greater dilution of free trade principles with labor and environmental concerns.

Dan Drezner's take (and hbe knows more about trade policy than I do) is that the article is ambiguous because Baucus is simultaneously "laying down a marker against protectionist Democrats" while "trying to get the Bush administration to sign off on Democratic policy proposals with a veneer of soothing rhetoric," and yet is not sure how to balance these two aims. Were it not for the Bush Administration's own spotty record on trade, I'd be quite discouraged.