Times seeks to quash debate on TRADE Act

Seattle Times editorial columnist Bruce Ramsey stopped by Drinking Liberally last night, and I immediately groused about how a dearth of irritating editorials in recent weeks has reduced me to dumpster diving over at Crosscut. Ramsey explained that he’d just returned from vacation, and that my complaint would be remedied in the morning with an editorial he penned on trade.

He didn’t disappoint: “Anti-trade bill that would hurt Washington state trade jobs should be stopped.”

At the risk of destroying his credibility with his co-workers, I have to admit that Ramsey is my favorite Times editorial writer (though as I explained to him last night, “it’s a pretty low bar”), largely because I find his columns both readable and consistent. The latter quality I attribute to his passionate libertarianism, a passion clearly on display in today’s editorial:

The Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment Act makes private commerce subject to the moral imperialism of advocates who do not conduct trade and don’t care about it.

Under the bill, if a foreign trading partner’s government doesn’t have “adequate labor and environmental regulations” — the adequacy determined by busybodies — the trade can be stopped.

If the foreign government hasn’t “taken effective steps to combat and prevent private and public corruption” — the effectiveness defined by busybodies — the trade can be stopped.

If the foreign government doesn’t have “transparency” and “due process of law” to suit American tastes, the trade can be stopped.

Uh-huh. Passion… check. Consistency… check. Facts… not so much.

Putting aside his efforts to dismiss those of us who care about human rights and environmental protection as mere “busybodies” (you know, “busybodies” like the Pope), Ramsey’s passionate hyperbole substantially misrepresents a bill that doesn’t actually include the authority to “stop” anything. Rather, the stated purpose of the TRADE Act is to review existing trade agreements, draw up standards on which to base future agreements and renegotiations, and provide greater Congressional oversight of the process, its main provisions consisting of:

  • Require a comprehensive review of existing trade agreements with an emphasis on economic results, enforcement and compliance and an analysis of non-tariff provisions in trade agreements.
  • Spell out standards for labor and environmental protections, food and product safety, national security exceptions and remedies that must be included in new trade pacts.
  • Set requirements regarding public services, farm policy, investment, government procurement and affordable medicines and compare them with components of current trade agreements.
  • Require the president to submit renegotiation plans for current trade pacts prior to negotiating new agreements and prior to congressional consideration of pending agreements.
  • Create a committee made up of the chairs and ranking members of each committee whose jurisdiction is affected by trade agreements to review the president’s plan for renegotiations.
  • Restore congressional oversight of trade agreements.

All existing trade treaties remain in force, and this bill provides no authority to modify or “stop” them. As for future agreements, the language within the bill is far from anti-trade or heavy handed, for example, Section 4, Subsection D:

(D) provide that failures to meet the labor standards required by the trade agreement shall be subject to effective dispute resolution and enforcement mechanisms and penalties that are included in the core text of the trade agreement…

In truth, the “busybodies” Ramsey refers to are members of Congress, and even if they were to determine that a particular trading partner was, say, violating fundamental human rights (defined in the act as “the rights enumerated in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights”), they still wouldn’t have the power to unilaterally “stop” the trade as Ramsey implies. Rather, under future treaties, our government’s recourse would be to pursue “effective dispute resolution.”

Hardly a draconian, anti-trade provision.

Ramsey is right that Washington is perhaps the most trade dependent state in the nation, which makes trade a sensitive subject for members of both parties. And if anybody doubts the extent to which “free traders” like Ramsey control the debate in this state, look no further than the fact that none of our state’s House delegation are among the 110 U.S. representatives who co-sponsored the TRADE Act… not even typically reliable progressives like Jim McDermott and Jay Inslee.

But Ramsey does a disservice to our state and to his readers when he reduces a 44-page bill into a 229-word, knee-jerk screed against trade restrictions of any kind:

The idea behind this bill is that commerce is bad and is making workers in America poor. Tell that to workers assembling aircraft, writing software, or moving containers on the docks.

Yeah, well, tell that to the tens of thousands of Washington workers who have seen their jobs shipped overseas to low-wage nations with lax environmental, workplace and product safety standards, and often no right to organize at all.

I appreciate that Ramsey’s objections to this bill are consistent with his steadfast libertarianism; in fact, I almost respect it. But rather than foster informed public debate on this issue, his intent appears to be to quash it, and I expect better than that from my favorite Seattle Times editorial board member.


  1. 1

    LaborGoon spews:

    Right on, Goldy!

    The majority of Americans have consistently opposed all recent “free trade” agreements. We are not protectionists. We do not oppose trade.

    Is it too much to ask for America to use its trading power to promote basic human rights and environmental standards, as opposed to just intellectual property and corporate trademarks?

    Busybodies of the world unite! Let’s celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Seattle WTO protest with a renewed call for international trade policies that make things better for the people and the planet, not just for corporations and their shareholders.

  2. 2

    Erich von Lustbader spews:

    Wouldn’t a buyer seeking lower prices (with a refusal to trade unless they get it) have as busy a body as a trade partner seeking fair workplaces for foreign workers, and armed with the same refusal to trade?

    Leave it to the supposedly ‘religious’ American right to completely ignore the parable of the Good Samaritan, which they clearly are not.

    But you can’t call Ramsey a busybody — just a willful sinner.

  3. 3

    ArtFart spews:

    I wonder how the majority of Ramsey’s readers would feel about this editorial if they were to keep in mind that what he’s basically advocating here is the unrestricted exportation of their jobs.

  4. 7

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Bill Clinton signed both NAFTA and GATT LaborGoon. Remember??

    So Goldy…you are soooooo concerned about Human Rights issues in other Countries…tell us what YOU have done with YOUR OWN MONEY to address your concerns??
    What, nothing but bitch you say??!

    We have supported missionaries in many countries. God’s word will change even the hardest of hearts. Your bitching on a Blog…hardly.

  5. 8

    Steve spews:

    @4 Thanks for the heads up on that – I got to watch a portion. Susan Hutchison is so obviously not qualified to run KC. One may have a nit to pick with the others on this or that but at least they seem up to taking on the job.

  6. 9


    “… and I immediately groused about how a dearth of irritating editorials in recent weeks has reduced me to dumpster diving over at Crosscut.”

    Goldy doesn’t think he bitches about Seattle Times editorials enough???

  7. 10

    Michael spews:

    There should be a vigorous and on going debate about what ‘the greater good’ consists of and where its limits should be. But, Ramsey seems to be saying that ‘the greater good’ doesn’t exist. Sorry Bruce, it does exist and nothing you write can change that.

  8. 11

    Erich von Lustbader spews:

    re 7: “We have supported missionaries in many countries. God’s word will change even the hardest of hearts.”

    Yeah — you and Ollie North. Why don’t you take your holier than thou attitude and shove it.

  9. 12

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Another New Age Atheist Progressive I presume.
    You are the majority on this cesspool….but not in this country.
    Your anger at believers will get you nowhere.
    Grow up and Wise up.

  10. 13

    Erich von Lustbader spews:

    re 12: You’re so wise! I guess you’ve seen it all — and all you got out of it was cynicism?

    What a loser. May you choke on your own self-righteous bile.

  11. 14

    WatchmanOnTheWall spews:

    Well the only thing to consider now is how many jobs will go over seas,The new cap and trade bill as well as the new health care reform, if it happens, will cut small business to the core and will send the the bigger corporations out of the country as higher taxes already have in the past.

    To say it can just be stopped is sputter.

    And Erich regardless of what you think of Cynical, God will not be mocked,His word will prevail,and every tounge will confess He is Lord over all.So keep you words soft and sweet for you never know which ones you’ll have to eat.
    That is good advice for all of us.

  12. 15

    Erich von Lustbader spews:

    re 14: The only big business not pushing for healthcare reform is the insurance industry.

    What makes you think that mocking you is mocking God? Sometimes I think that people like you would like to do a little walkin’ on water, too.

    But the question I raised about Cynicals unctuous claim to sending missionaries throughout the world and the murder of Honduran missionaries by Ollie North and the Reagan gang seems to have run into a brick wall.

    Rather not deal with the truth about yourself?

  13. 16

    X'ad spews:

    2. Mr. Cynical spews:

    Another New Age Atheist Progressive I presume.
    You are the majority on this cesspool….but not in this country.
    Your anger at believers will get you nowhere.
    Grow up and Wise up.

    You love it here, asshole, and it is very obvious. You can vomit up your hypocrisy and congratulate yourself on being better than all us heathens, which is anyone, Christian or not, that you disapprove of.


  14. 17

    WatchmanOnTheWall spews:

    I deal with myself every day,and right, if possible,i would walk on water,just like any other person would if possible, but since i can’t, i am satisfied to give the credit to God to walk on it for me,

    as far as Ollie North, God will deal with that.As for me, i am sorry that happened.

    The fact is christians do send bibles and missionaries all over the world, it is paid for by the donations of believers.

    I cant imagine why a person would send a missionary or a bible to spread the word of a God they dont believe exist,just saying.

    The truth about me is i was once an horrible nasty, person but Jesus changed my life.,NO i dont always do what i should, but i was a terrible person for so long, sometimes i just do and say things before even i notice what i have done.
    But the words i said to you are the truth about God, it was from his Holy Word. I just borrowed it.
    So i dont feel holier than thou, i dont think i am anything really, just a very ugly, mean person with out God in my life. Peace TO you

  15. 18

    Erich von Lustbader spews:

    re 17: Well, that sounds honest. Good for you!!

    Seriously, whatever gets you through the night.

  16. 19

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Here is Obama’s big problem..

    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Thursday shows that 29% of the nation’s voters now Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Thirty-six percent (36%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of –7 (see trends).

    Thirty-two percent (32%) now say the country is heading in the right direction That’s down eight points from the 2009 peak and the lowest since February.

  17. 20

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    And here is the big problem for the Dems:
    Generic Congressional Ballot
    Republicans Remain Ahead on Generic Ballot for Third Straight Week
    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Republican candidates continue to lead on the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot as Democrats fall to their lowest level of support among voters in recent years.

    A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 40% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate while 37% would choose the Democratic candidate.

  18. 22

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Yet another sign of the times:

    Obama Comes to Corzine’s Aid, as Polls Show Him Struggling in N.J. Governor’s Race
    A Quinnipiac University poll out this week suggests Republican challenger Chris Christie is pulling away from incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine in the New Jersey governor’s race.
    By Mike Emanuel


    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    In the middle of making a hard push for health care reform before the August recess, President Obama is taking a time out to drum up support for New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine in his race for re-election, where the Democratic incumbent has been consistently trailing his Republican opponent.

    The latest Quinnipiac University poll this week showed challenger Chris Christie pulling away, with a 53-41 percent lead over Corzine — up from a 10-point lead in last month’s survey.

    While the president is devoting most of his time to keeping comprehensive health care legislation alive on Capitol Hill, Corzine’s flagging candidacy apparently could not be ignored.

  19. 23

    Puddybud is shocked SHOCKED spews:

    Erich Von Lustbader, do you understand chronology? Puddy doesn’t think so. In fact Puddy thinks yous another of them hating HA Libtardos who TRY, YES TRY to pin anything you can on us whom think right. So Puddy declares you to be another chronological idiot.

    If you understood chronology you’d realize that 25 members of Honduran Army Battalion 3-16 came to American in August 1980 and was trained by the FBI and CIA. They were taught how to use a prisoners weak points and fears against them. They were taught how to use sleep deprivation and and blackmail to acquire the necessary information. While they were here the US and Argintina sent military “instructors” to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The Argentinians held classes on real torture while the Americans sat there. This is all historical fact and no libtardo like you can change the happenings of late 1980. Butt, Puddy can show it to you fool! Now who was president then?

    And let Puddy help you again… through U.S. pressure, the Honduran military returned the Honduran government back to civilians during 1981. Guess who was president then?

    OK Ollie supplied them weapons. Did Ollie tell Battalion 3-16 to kill the missionaries? What a bunch of bunkum, direct from the libtardo MSM!

  20. 24

    ArtFart spews:

    @14 Wrong-ola, FlyOnTheWall….all cap&trade is likely to do, other than to help Goldman Sachs make more money, is artifically accellerate the process that the rising cost of energy (and thus of transport of goods) is going to do anyway. The price advantage of importing goods made in some Chinese hell hole over domestic manufacture will eventually be wiped out by the cost of shipping all that stuff halfway around the planet.

  21. 25

    Puddybud is shocked SHOCKED spews:

    Well ArtFart,… all crap and slave trade will give you a known y-intercept (what you pay now) with an unknown highly positive slope and an unknown point in space. Too many unknowns for Puddy!

    If that’s your happiness then so be it. Puddy will look into how to create carbon credits.

  22. 26

    Puddybud is shocked SHOCKED spews:

    Besides ArtFart,

    So between crap and slave trade and the libtardo WA Post is reporting… health care… “Plan being drafted by congressional Democrats would worsen an already bleak budget outlook and driving nation more deeply into debt, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf says.” ; we’re gonna see mo and mo debt!