during the presidential campaign, Obamaâ€™s foreign policy promises were inherently contradictory. On the one hand, he promised a less unilateralist and belligerent foreign policy, supposedly in opposition to Bush. On the other, he promised to renegotiate NAFTA and slow pending trade agreements, prompting public concern from U.S. trading partners. For anyone who understands that trade policy is foreign policy, these promises were clearly crises waiting to happen. Closely related to the campaign was Obamaâ€™s bestselling book, in which he admitted that labor unions had been crucial to his political career and therefore deserve special treatment from him (page 119).
The other item of context is Obamaâ€™s careful behavior at international forums for addressing the financial crisis. At the G-20 and other venues, Obama and his deputies urged countries to avoid damaging trade protectionism. The lessons of Smoot-Hawley were fresh in the minds of officials concerned that protectionism could spark a race to the bottom.
Given his campaign rhetoric and history with unions, there was always a chance Obama would be an anti-trade president. This concern has been magnified by his foot-dragging on the Colombian free trade agreement (and others), crucial to Washingtonâ€™s relationship with the regionally besieged Latin American country, but angering to unions. Many had hoped, however, that Obamaâ€™s campaign rhetoric about careful foreign policy and his promises at the G-20 would prevent a U.S.-initiated, belligerent trade war.
Any countries that trusted Obamaâ€™s trade policiesâ€”and therefore foreign policiesâ€”have now been proven wrong.
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