"My concern is how much weight this position would have had, and I reached the conclusion that it would not be a top priority or even a second or third priority," Becerra told La Opinion, a Los Angeles Spanish-language newspaper, in an interview earlier this week.With the Doha round of WTO talks stalled, hopefully to resume in 2009, it is imperative that trade be made a priority so the impasses over intellecutal property and agricultural subsidies can be broken. Nominating someone to USTR with zero trade experience and with lowered priority is not a good sign. Furthermore, Reuters reports that Obama's first trade priority will be "to make good on Obama's promise to add stronger labor and environmental provisions to the North American Free Trade Agreement, a pact often blamed by labor groups for moving U.S. jobs to ."
All of this bodes very badly. Obama's anti-trade rhetoric during the campaign bordered on protectionist, and was often down-right scary. Re-opening NAFTA would be a disastrous move, making other states less likely to sign agreements with the US for fear that they would be re-opened in the future, undoing all the hard negotiating on the original agreement. Many people claimed that Obama's talk on trade was just that: talk. The hope was Obama was spouting protectionist rhetoric to win the election and that once president he would adopt a saner approach to free trade. Such hopes were bolstered by top economic adviser Austin Goolsbee's comment in Canada that Obama's anti-NAFTA positions "should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans."
But the closer it gets to inauguration day, the more it looks like Obama was serious in his rhetoric.