BY Patrick J. Buchanan – September 9, 2002
The World Trade Organization has just given Europe the right to hit the United States with $4 billion in tariff sanctions – to punish us for giving tax breaks to U.S. exporters like Boeing, Microsoft and GE.
Under WTO rules, we are not permitted to retaliate. We must stand and take the EU sucker punch, however hard it wants to hit.
Perhaps this “stick-it-to-the-Americans” ruling will at last awaken us to the folly of having created this monster. A showdown with the WTO over whether free trade trumps U.S. national interests was inevitable the day we joined this outfit. Let’s get it on, and let’s get it over with.
Even creating the WTO was a blunder. We shaped and joined a global body where, for the first time, America had neither the veto power nor voting power to protect U.S. vital interests from hostile and envious rivals. What were we thinking of?
The WTO enshrines as infallible dogma the tenets of a 19th-century free-trade cult that helped to reduce Britain, homeland of the Industrial Revolution, to today’s third-tier manufacturing power.
Under WTO rules, everything is subordinated to trade. Yet no trade policy – mercantilism, protectionism or free trade – is always right for all nations all the time. Before 1933, America was the most protectionist nation on earth, and it grew from 13 rural farm states into the greatest manufacturing power in history.
After 1933, free-traders captured both parties. Yet, their victory was not irreversible. We had not reached the end of history. And by 1993, populists had arisen to almost defeat a NAFTA trade deal endorsed by the nation’s academic, corporate, media and political elites.
Fearing they were losing the country, free-traders pulled one of the most anti-democratic stunts in U.S. history. They wrote their free-trade ideology into international law, to impose it on the United States, forever, from without. Davos Republicans had colluded with San Francisco Democrats in economic treason. Both put free trade before country and sold out American sovereignty.
Under today’s WTO rules, Reagan’s patriotic interventions to save the U.S. steel, machine-tool, auto and semiconductor industries would be prohibited and punished, as would his rescue of Harley-Davidson.
The foreign sales corporations that so outraged the EU and its agent, the WTO, permit U.S. companies to set up offshore subsidiaries to avoid taxes on exports and help our manufacturers survive, a legitimate U.S. national interest. But under WTO rules, laws written to prosper America and Americans first are crimes against globalism.
That principled protectionist Teddy Roosevelt would have known how to respond to these arrogant Eurocrats. “If Europe wants a trade war, let it begin here!” he would have roared. But consider the reaction of the current crowd.
“I believe that today’s findings will ultimately be rendered moot by U.S. compliance,” said Trade Rep. Robert Zoellick, an echo of Treasury’s Ken Dam, “I am confident that today’s findings regarding damages will be rendered moot by our coming into compliance.”
“This is a time for statesmanship, not retaliation,” purrs the Clinton aide Stu Eizenstat. Ways and Means Chair Bill Thomas is already at work rewriting America’s laws to conform to Europe’s demands.
But Brother Thomas has a problem.
With Clinton gone, House Democrats see populist votes in the trade issue. And with America running a merchandise trade deficit near $500 billion, few are toasting NAFTA or the WTO. Indeed, Boeing, Microsoft, Caterpillar, Cisco Systems, Motorola and GE have all come to depend on these foreign sales corporations, and they want them left alone.
On the other side of the pond, however, the EU sees the $4 billion in punitive tariffs as a loaded shotgun to wave in our face to make us behave and stop protecting our farmers and steel industry. In a few days, the EU will publish a list of U.S. exports on which it reserves the right to impose tariffs at will, and with impunity. When that list is published, we shall find out what the Bushites are made of.
“For the WTO to start commenting on whether U.S. tax policy is acceptable is a huge expansion of its authority,” wails Daniel Mitchell of the Heritage Foundation, “You have to ask, where does it stop?”
No, Dan, you should have asked that question, eight years ago, when the Heritage boys were bunking down with Bill and Al, working to bring us all under the rule of the WTO. Prediction: Conservatives who put free trade ideology ahead of U.S. sovereignty and the national interest will one day soon pay a blood tax at the ballot box.