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Strike A European Trade Agreement

Oringinally published in Bloomberg News

Edward Glaeser (Glimp Professor of Economics, Harvard University)

President Barack Obama can join the pantheon of free-trade heroes if, in his State of the Union address, he forcefully advocates the cause of a trade union with Europe. The potential benefits for U.S. companies and consumers are enormous.

The risks to U.S. labor are far lower than with trade deals involving lower-wage countries.

The president was a lackluster leader on free trade in his first term, signing just three new free-trade agreements, which all began negotiations in the George W. Bush administration. Obama also accepted the pernicious “Buy American” provisions of the stimulus package.

He should use his address to make the U.S. a leading voice once again for economic freedom: the freedom of consumers to buy European goods and the freedom of producers to sell their goods on the other side of the Atlantic.

The administration is starting the process of moving toward trade talks with Europe. The horse-trading will get tricky, and the president shouldn’t tie his hands. He should use his bully pulpit to get Americans excited about the opportunities that free trade can create, and to get Europeans energized about the U.S. desire to bargain in good faith.

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