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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

September 14, 2009 at 9:25 AM

Obama — and Locke — face their first major trade challenge

Top of the News: America exports so much less to China than it imports that each administration now seems to have its Sista Souljah moment. George W. Bush imposed tariffs on imported steel as the domestic industry faced crisis. Now President Obama has decided to levy duties on Chinese tires to protect American rubberworker jobs.

The question is whether the move will be largely symbolic or begin a reset in U.S.-Chinese trade relations. I’m not holding my breath — or my U.S.-made tire — in anticipation of the latter. China is threatening retaliatory tariffs on some American imports and the case could end up before the World Trade Organization.

That China owns trillions in American debt complicates matters. But so, too, does China’s own trade policies, which include currency manipulation and protectionism in numerous areas. All helps keep America’s trade deficit high and the debt-for-stuff relationship unsustainable.. Commerce Secretary and former Washington Gov. Gary Locke faces a big task.

The Back Story: A wise old columnist (obviously not me) said anniversary stories are the stuff of lazy journalists. Nevertheless, we would be remiss if we didn’t take note of the one-year mark of Lehman Brothers’ collapse and watch the moths fly out of our wallets.

Sadly, after the swindles that led to the greatest financial collapse since 1929, little has changed on Wall Street. One excellent take comes from Nobel laureate Joe Stiglitz, who argues than bank problems are even worse today than a year ago.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Remember back when

The banks were too big to fail?

They’re much bigger now

Comments | More in Bailout, Banking, Trade

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