The record trade deficit for 1987 conceals unmistakable evidence that important corrections are taking hold, that export growth is strong. This in turn holds a sobering warning for those who would make trade a political issue, who would intrude into delicate trade negotiations with crude instruments of punishment and protectionism.
Nevertheless, leaders in Congress are pressing ahead with their omnibus trade bill. The Democratic Party has made a particular commitment to the legislation, and in its zeal to ride to the rescue of all sorts of allegedly abused business and labor interests it is inviting the construction of one of the most regressive and damaging pieces of legislation contrived in recent years. It has become a lobbyists' delight, each special interest attaching its own glittering bauble with little appreciation that their sum weight will jeopardize two great opportunities for economic expansion.
Those two opportunities are (1) the new round of talks on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in Geneva, where trade issues of critical importance to the United States are on the agenda, and (2) the newly signed free-trade agreement with Canada, the nation's most important trading partner.
Unfortunately, congressional leaders are insisting on action first on the omnibus bill, which itself could cripple the Geneva talks and undermine the enormous value of the Canadian treaty. By the time they allow a vote on the Canadian agreement, there may be little left to cheer about.