In what can only be described as a slap in the face for American manufacturers, the Obama administration has imposed tiny, token tariffs on Chinese solar panels in response to American manufacturers’ complaints of huge Chinese subsidies and dumping. (See above link to the Reuters story.) The Obama administration imposed duties ranging from 2.9% to 4.7%. Industry analysts had been expecting tariffs of 20-30%.
For all of his complaints that Republicans have stymied his efforts to change the direction of America, trade policy is one area where he has absolute power to act. Yet, nowhere else is his failure more evident. Regardless of whether it was his trade negotiating team, his Treasury Secretary or him personally (as happened with his trip to Mexico early in his administration), every trade policy negotiator during his administration has been sent home with his tail between his legs. Consequently, the trade deficit has exploded on his watch.
Remember Obama’s emphasis on “green” jobs, claiming that such jobs would remain in America? Remember his announcement earlier this year of a task force tasked with investigating and responding to unfair Chinese trade practices? It’s all just rhetoric, designed to appease voters, just like his campaign promises to counter unfair trade practices, re-write NAFTA and, in general, fix American trade policy.
Obama has proven to be yet another in a long line of care-taker presidents, keeping the seat warm in the west wing while doing nothing to correct economic blunders of the past and address our long-term challenges. Another opportunity lost. He seems more concerned with maintaining a congenial atmosphere around the punch bowl at G20 meetings than with putting Americans back to work. I made the mistake of believing him once. I won’t make that same mistake this fall.