Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus largely ignored the health care debate brewing in the Senate and launched into a discussion about trade, labor and climate change Tuesday in a discussion at the Elliott School of International Affairs.
Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, dug into the specifics Tuesday morning at a breakfast hosted by the Elliott School, and called for international trade regulations to reduce the carbon footprint of cargo ships during his 15-minute speech.
Quoting former President John F. Kennedy, Baucus said “We must trade or fade,” but stressed America needs to bring international trade and shipping regulations in line with the country’s environmental policies. Baucus added the use of large freight ships for international trade should be monitored, as the vessels can release harmful pollutants.
With billions of dollars worth of cargo being exchanged between the United States and other countries every year, Baucus said our trade is “too focused on the trans-Atlantic.” The U.S. must further trade relations with countries in the Pacific market, particularly China, he said.
“We must move forward. We must make it clear the U.S. is open to trade,” Baucus said. “I look forward to showing them just how fantastic American farmers, ranchers and manufacturers are, and how interested they are in the region… Asia must be the centerpiece of our new trade strategy.”
Baucus said the U.S. should prioritize cutting back on harmful emissions, and encourage its trading partners to do the same.
“For too long, environmental gains were subordinated by economic growth,” Baucus said. “We have a moral responsibility to protect our earth for future generations.”
Throughout his entire speech, Baucus emphasized the role of the U.S. is to lead change.
“By and large, we have an obligation as a country to go first,” Baucus said, adding that nations worldwide should reduce tariffs to limit barriers to international trade. He specifically mentioned the high tariff rates in South Korea. Saud Al Nowais, the commercial counselor for the trade office of the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, called Baucus’ speech “excellent.”
At the end of his address, Baucus reiterated the obligations of workers in America and abroad to promote and foster the new blueprint he has proposed for trade and development.
“The positive effects of this trade on the economy are not concentrated in one state or region,” Baucus said. “Our country needs to be more aggressive and forward leading. Let’s get going!”
This article appeared in the November 12, 2009 issue of the Hatchet.