Whether or not you are among the tiny minority of Americans who thinks our trade and globalization policies are good for our country, it is undeniable that Barack Obama campaigned on very explicit pledges to radically change those policies . He not only campaigned on an implicit promise to support Buy America laws , but with regards to existing trade agreements and their provisions dealing with procurement, he said he does “not support trade efforts that undermine important federal, state and local policies.”
Clearly, his move to water-down the Buy America laws he campaigned on violate the spirit – if not the letter – of his campaign promises, especially because he is justifying the move by citing the trade agreement restrictions he said he opposed. But today, the White House went even further, saying that the administration’s overarching goal is actually no wholesale change of trade policy whatsoever. Check this out  from White House press secretary Robert Gibbs’ briefing today:
The lawmakers are reacting to a demand by the White House that the provisions satisfy U.S. obligations under the World Trade Organization. President Barack Obama “wants to ensure that any legislation that passes is consistent with trade agreements and doesn’t signal a change in our overall stance on trade,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at a news briefing today.
As the AFL-CIO’s Bob Baugh notes – and as Public Citizen ably details  – Buy America laws (ie. laws that let the government target its procurement to American companies) are completely consistent with our international trade agreements. Indeed, both the “protectionist”  fearmongering and the “violation of trade pacts” nonsense are canards on the substance.
But that’s less important than the White House’s meta statement here. After winning free-trade-decimated swing states like Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin on very clear promises to change America’s overall stance on trade policy, the White House has made an official declaration that one of the president’s biggest objectives in the debate over the stimulus bill is that the legislation “doesn’t signal a change in our overall stance on trade.” Yes, the administration that came in on a promise of “change” is explicitly saying it doesn’t want to even “signal a change.”
Between this, and Larry Summers’ letter  insisting that the Obama administration will avoid any “industrial policy” at all cost, I don’t know how much more clear the Obama administration can really make things. It is going before cameras specifically saying its objective is to prevent change on one of the most important economic issues that Obama campaigned on.