It is beginning to look as if the Obama of the campaign -- I will renegotiate NAFTA -- rather than the more pragmatic Obama is coming the the fore. I know the International Trade Commission (which wouldn't exist if I had my druthers, even though a close friend worked there a long time) makes recommendations, and has a bias toward recommending sanctions against other countries -- that's the reason it exists. But the president doesn't have to take its advice. In deciding to slap a tariff on Chinese tires, I'm afraid he showed his true anti-trade (actually utter ignorance on economics period, based on the rest of his record) colors. Only one party, the United Steelworkers, wanted those tariffs. The domestic tire industry didn't. But Obama preferred to throw a bone to the union.
Even though the U.S. and China are remarkably intertwined economically and have no reason to upset one another in potentially harmful ways, this could set of a trade war. Perhaps more significant, as this Register editorial notes, it sends a message to the other G-20 countries, meeting in Pittsburgh this weekend, that a few little tariffs here and there are just fine with the U.S. I think most countries understand the benefits of trade, but a bit of proetctionism here and there always seems to play well with the rubes, always the majority in any country.