Given the various protectionist noises that Barack Obama made during the course of the Presidential campaign, there are plenty of people who are concerned that an Obama Administration will be one of the most illiberal in recent memory when it comes to the issue of trade. Of course, it should come as no surprise that some of the concerned are members of the Bush Administration, but it should be noted that Prime Minister Gordon Brown–celebrated here by contemporary liberals for his interventionist approach to combating the financial crisis–is also coming out against protectionism and against the kind of industry-wide bailouts that are currently being contemplated for the automobile industry here in the United States.
One wonders whether the incoming Obama Administration is taking note of all of this concern regarding the shape and nature of its trade policy. Change We Can Believe In was supposed to encompass a (supposedly) newfound willingness to respect the words, thoughts and policy preferences of our allies. Doing so when it comes to the issue of trade would be most welcome, seeing as how allies like Gordon Brown are in favor of trade liberalization, but doing so would upset and enrage Barack Obama’s domestic political constituency.
So, will he do the right thing by that constituency? Or will he do the right thing by his country? Stay tuned, but the fact that we even have to entertain doubts about the commitment of the incoming President of the United States to free trade during a period of global recession is more than a little worrying.