Friday, August 03, 2007

U.S. Ball & Chain Trade Policies

When I took a business trip to Chile a while back, I stepped off the plane in Santiago and was met with a sign that said something about a reciprocity fee. Apparently, the U.S. government charges travelers from Chile a fee when they enter the U.S. I have no idea why our governement does this, but the Chileans respond in kind adjusting the fee to the same level as the fee in the U.S. It's an interesting concept: If you charge us a fee, we'll do likewise. If you don't charge a fee, neither will we.

So, with all the talk about free trade, why don't we do the same with our trading partners? If they slap on a tariff, so do we, etc. Instead, between tariffs and value added taxes, our trading partners charge us on average between 20 and 25 percent on our exports to their country. But we don't respond in kind making it extremely difficult for U.S. manufacturers to compete globally. Some of these taxes are WWII leftovers we instituted to help our wartime enemies rebuild. Maybe it's time to sunset these outdated policies and give our domestic producers a fair shake.

Two entities are in a great position to reform our policies: Our state legislature, which can pass a resolution to get the attention of Congress , and Congress—specifically, our senators—who should be leading the charge for trade reform. It's not as popular an issue as the war, but the politicians who generate more jobs and strengthen the economy certainly will have something to hang their hats on when re-election time rolls around.

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