President Obama pledged to double exports in five years. This one should have lead to rauckous laughter across the country, because it is just silly policy. As every economist knows, exports do not create jobs, net exports (the difference between exports and imports) creates jobs. If exports by themselves created jobs, then we could create millions of jobs by imported trillions of dollars of goods from Mexico, Canada and elsewhere and then sending them exporting them back over the border again.
Unfortunately, NPR chose not to make this point in discussing President Obama’s trade target on Morning Edition. Instead, it treated the doubling of exports as a serious and important economic goal. It also repeatedly referred to “free trade” and “free trade agreements.”
The Obama administration is not promoting free trade or free trade agreements. Its trade agenda does little or nothing to remove the barriers to trade in highly paid professional services, like physicians’ services or legal services. It also increases protectionist barriers for copyrights and patents.
Promoters of these pacts like to call them “free-trade” agreements because it sounds better than selective protectionism, just as President Reagan dubbed the MX missile the “Peacekeeper.” However, it would have been inappropriate for the media to call the MX missile the “Peacekeeper” (it didn’t), and it is inappropriate to refer to these trade deals as “free-trade” agreements.
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