which reports without comment Treasury Secretary Paulson’s assertion that free trade has been a cornerstone of U.S. prosperity and warning against protectionist barriers.
Baker doesn’t like this: He thinks that every time such comments are reported, the NYT should step in and note that the US could have even freer trade, especially in white-collar services.
But the really weird thing is that Baker is studiously avoiding a front-page article by Steven Weisman with the headline “A Cry to Limit Chinese Imports Rings at Paper Mill“. Here’s the lede:
For years the residents of this economically distressed hollow in the Appalachians have watched textile mills, glass factories and tire makers close down one after the other. Now its lone remaining big factory — “the last man standing,” as the production manager at the paper mill here put it — is threatened by imports of cheaper paper made in China.
“We’re still the economic engine for this whole area,” said Scott Graham, the production manager, referring to the river valley and forested hills surrounding the mill. “But our operations cannot compete with these below-cost imports.”
The story continues in a similar vein for over 1,700 words, and is very, very sympathetic to the protectionists. Here’s Weisman a bit further down, for instance:
Many lawmakers say it is time to stop treating China with kid gloves, arguing that Beijing no longer deserves a free ride in which it benefits from a special exemption generally forbidden to Japan, Europe and other advanced industrial powers.
He quotes lots of people on that side of the debate, but not a single individual on the other side. The closest he comes is quoting a lawyer for China, near the end of the article, saying that if the paper tariffs are imposed then steel tariffs are likely to come next.
He even implies that the tariff-raising policy might be coming from — wait for it — Hank Paulson:
Some in Congress also see the China actions as a sign that Mr. Paulson, who resigned as chief executive of Goldman Sachs to become Treasury secretary last summer, realizes that his policy toward Beijing is faltering…
“When Paulson came in, he thought all you have to do is talk logic with the Chinese,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and a vociferous critic of China. “They talked very nicely and gave him ice in the winter. Now he’s learning that you have to be tougher. It’s not like doing a deal with Goldman Sachs.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Paulson, Brookly McLaughlin, said that the dialogue was “not designed to replace other bilateral negotiations or the necessary enforcement of our trade laws.”
Now, I don’t know what Dean Baker thinks of this article, or whether he thinks that punitive tariffs on Chinese paper imports are a good idea. But I think that today, of all days, is not the best day for bashing the NYT for being too cozy with the “free trade” brigade.