We don't yet know where President-Elect Barack Obama stands on international trade, but the early signs are troubling. In the election, his rhetoric was as protectionist as that of any serious presidential candidate in recent history. Yet he would also from time to time proclaim himself a free trader and his supporters would argue that internationalism is in his blood.
We could, of course, wait until the spring to see what policies the new Obama administration will pursue, but this is the season for poring over hints and clues. In a classic Sherlock Holmes story, the sleuth found an important clue in something that didn't happen — a dog that didn't bark. Perhaps the modern trade equivalent is a lame duck that didn't quack — Congress' failure to pass the Colombia Free Trade Agreement before it adjourned.
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