The Clintons and Global Trade Policy

James Goldgeier says Clinton's second term saw a successful focus on the economics of foreign policy.
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Topic: The Clintons and Global Trade Policy

James Goldgeier:  It was interesting about Bill Clinton because he came in. He was going to be the globalization president. He really understood globalization much earlier than many other politicians. Certainly the Republicans, you know, sort of derided him for, you know, they called it "globaloney" and they had these annual meetings in Davos, Switzerland. And, you know, to them it was just this lot of elite chatter about issues that they were really quite condescending to him about. On the Democratic side, you had the unions very concerned about the United States trading agreements, for example the NAFTA, the agreement with Canada and Mexico. Clinton was really trying to move the Democratic Party in a more free trade direction. He was determined that the Democratic Party embraced globalization. In his view, you know, it was a technological revolution. You couldn't stop it. You had to try to be part of-- in the forefront. You know, you wanted Silicon Valley to be in the forefront. You wanted the United States to have a leadership role, and you wanted the United States to be engaged with the rest of the world and to take advantage of the, you know, sort of a new borderless world to increase everyone's well-being. And certainly in the second Clinton term, you have tremendous economic growth taking place. I think one of the things that he did very well which we've lost in this administration and I would hope we'd get back in the next administration, he elevated the economic side of foreign policy and made it co-equal with the national security side. He elevated the role of the treasury secretaries. Robert Rubin and then Larry Summers were very powerful players in American foreign policy. And it wasn't just that they were listened to on economic issues, they were players with the secretary of state, secretary of defense, national security advisor, as, you know, people who really had an important role to play in America's relations with the rest of the world. And, that's been lost-- this administration has been so much more traditional national security-oriented. And we had two very weak treasury secretaries to start. The current treasury secretary is stronger but not a figure the way Rubin and Summers were. And we really need to recognize that the United States-- a core part of foreign policy is economic policy and that treasury-- you have to have a strong person in the treasury department who really is able to interact as an equal with the national security advisor, vice president, secretary of state and secretary of defense to formulate a coherent American foreign policy that, you know, can help this country in this globalizing world. The Clinton mantra was, you know, you can't wall yourself off in a globalizing world. You know, you have to find ways to create new kinds of jobs. The jobs that are leaving, you know, aren't necessarily going to come back. Protectionism doesn't work, and so you have to find new ways to create new kinds of opportunities and promote technological revolution, not try to run away from it.

 

Recorded on: 07/08/2008