A glimpse of Obama’s secret second-term trade agenda?

Doha is dead. Long live the Transpacific Partnership.

So says Mike Froman, the Obama administration adviser often mentioned as a possible new U.S. Trade Representative. He was speaking of the long-stalled Doha round of world trade talks at a globalization forum at the Peterson Institute for International Economics Monday afternoon. While the concession that the world has "turned the page" on Doha is not surprising -- few would disagree -- his analysis gives some insight into the thinking of a major Obama administration voice on trade.

Michael Froman, a White House staffer and potential nominee to be U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, a White House staffer and potential nominee to be U.S. Trade Representative

His take: the "low hanging fruit" on global trade has been exploited. And the major emerging nations -- Brazil, India and China by name -- do not want to play ball.

"They would like to maintain their status as developing countries and put less on the table."

Of course there is subtext: if he takes over at USTR, or even if not, he will be building the case for a trade pact that the administration will market as the next best alternative to Doha -- the Transpacific Partnership. That would be a trade deal with the likes of Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, Chile, and Peru, and would aim to create a trade bloc. Apart from its potential economic significance of allowing freer trade between the United States and a number of mid-sized nation around the Pacific Rim, the Transpacific Partnership would play a role in the Obama's geopolitical goals of creating counterweights to China's influence in the region.

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Evan Soltas · January 8, 2013