An Open Letter To Erin Ennis

by Don Boudreaux on January 5, 2011

in History, Trade

Ms. Erin Ennis
U.S.-China Business Council
Washington, DC

Dear Ms. Ennis:

Thanks for your invitation to a speech to be delivered next Thursday at the Capital Hilton by U.S. Commerce secretary Gary Locke.  I must decline.

Mr. Locke’s address is sure to get rolling with harmless rhetoric about the promise of U.S.-Chinese friendship and of more trade between our two nations.  This address, however, will just as surely run off the rails with Mr. Locke identifying increased U.S. exports to – rather than imports from – China as the benefit we Americans will enjoy because of his and Pres. Obama’s intrepid leadership.  And the speech will become a verbal train wreck when Mr. Locke complains, as he certainly will, about the allegedly undervalued yuan and other Beijing policies that Uncle Sam deems to be “unfair” – policies that, Mr. Locke will promise, the Obama administration shall unhesitatingly “punish” with “tough” trade sanctions.

Such proclamations are as wrong as they are predictable.

A speech that I would spend my time to hear, in contrast, is a very short one; it’s a speech in which a high-ranking official in the U.S. government would simply and approvingly quote British Prime Minister Robert Peel’s 1843 statement to the House of Commons explaining his decision to support repeal of the British tariffs known as “corn laws”: “I am bound to say that it is our interest to buy cheap, whether other countries will buy cheap or no.”  Full stop.

Peel’s 21 words contain vastly more wisdom (and political courage) than the thousands of words that Mr. Locke will inflict upon your invited audience.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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