By Carol Keiser: Belleair, Florida
Many women don’t have much time to study the policy details of the two presidential candidates. We’re either running around with the kids or running around at work--and often we’re trying to do both at the same time.
So when we want to learn what President Obama and Mitt Romney think about an issue like international trade, it’s best when they provide one-stop shopping on their campaign websites.
Yet only one candidate devotes a page of his website to trade.
Reading it is a welcome breath of fresh air--a taste of substance in a race that occasionally seems to have lacked it. So after the near-non-stop news about the misbegotten words of Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin, it’s time to focus on issues that most women really care about: jobs and the economy.
When we talk of job creation and economic growth, we have to discuss big drivers of both: imports and exports.
So whose website has more to say?
President Obama has a record to run on--and there’s plenty to boast about. He signed free-trade agreements last year with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. His administration is in the process of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would create a huge trade zone that includes the United States and at least eight other countries. The next round of TPP talks start in a week, in Virginia.
And yet his campaign website is virtually silent on free trade. There’s a single mention of the three trade agreements, but it’s buried at the bottom of a page and easy to miss. Beyond that and a reference to increased exports by 2015, there’s nothing: No high-flying rhetoric, no policy objectives, and no specific promises about what he’d deliver in a second term.
In sharp contrast, Mitt Romney’s website has a whole page devoted to free trade, with slogans, sub-sections, bullet points, and more.
"Open markets have helped make America powerful and prosperous," says Romney’s trade page. "Indeed, they have been one of the keys to our economic success since the country was founded."
It goes on to list goals, such as reinstating Trade Promotion Authority for the president, finishing the TPP negotiations, pursuing new trade agreements with other countries, and building what Romney calls the "Reagan Economic Zone, in which nations committed to open markets will reduce trade barriers for mutual benefit.
And there’s even more. One item that’s not on his website but which his advisors have talked up in recent days is the creation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, a trade zone in the Western hemisphere. This ambitious goal went unrealized during the Bush years due to opposition from Argentina, Brazil, and several other countries. It may yet be difficult to negotiate, but it’s good to see that Romney considers it worth the effort.
As a rancher who produces beef, I have firsthand knowledge of the advantages of free trade. We sell to American customers, but much of our market lies overseas. "Approximately 95 percent of the world’s consumers live beyond our borders, and selling our world-class products and services to them is the next great frontier for economic growth," says Romney’s website. "The fewer the barriers to cross-border commerce, the more economic growth we enjoy and the greater the number of American jobs brought into being."
I’m fed up with politicians and pundits who want to lecture me about so-called women’s issues. Right now, no issues are more important to women than jobs and the economy--and only one candidate has much of anything to say about reviving them through global trade.
Romney’s trade policies are not without their problems. In an interview with the Detroit News last month, a press aide said that Romney does not currently support Japan’s participation in TPP--even though this should be a top goal of the United States.
What’s more, Romney sometimes sounds a bit too ready to launch a trade war with China. His website speaks of imposing new tariffs in retaliation for currency manipulation. I understand the need to talk tough with the Chinese, but everyone must understand that a trade war would be the result of diplomatic failure, not success.
Helen Reddy sings "I am woman, hear me roar." I love that song. But when it comes to roaring, I’d rather let the U.S. economy make all the noise--and I’m glad to see that Mitt Romney understands that free trade turns up the volume.
Carol Keiser owns and operates cattle feeding operations in Kansas, Nebraska and Illinois. She volunteers as a Truth About Trade & Technology board member. www.truthabouttrade.org