Trade is hard. Figuring out what to do about China is even harder

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Ana Marie Cox has informed me that several Democratic candidates for president have been participating in a United Steelworkers forum at the Crown Plaza Cleveland City Centre yesterday and today focused on trade and manufacturing. This is news to me on so many fronts (There’s a presidential election coming up? There are Democrats participating in it? Cleveland has a city centre?), but Ana is mainly focused on the fact that they’re talking about trade issues that everybody in the political press corps has been ignoring. (“Trade is hard,” she writes.)

The Dems’ attitudes on trade have gotten a lot of attention in the financial media and among Wall Street economist types. The Wall Streeters are prone, in fact, to worry aloud that we’re on the brink of a big trade U-turn that will end the globalization jamboree they’ve grown to love so much.

In general, I don’t think the Dem candidates are really all that anti-trade. I certainly haven’t heard them talk about rolling back existing trade agreements or picking Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown as a running mate (although I’ll admit, I haven’t been watching their forums and debates). They do all want to be seen shaking their fists at China, and yesterday the FT reported (see, told you the financial media cares about this stuff) that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have joined the ranks lining up behind the bipartisan Senate plan to spank China for manipulating its currency. As I’ve written before, China has lots of perfectly decent reasons to link its currency to the dollar. What we should probably be spanking it for is sending us lead-coated toys and toxic catfish, pirating American intellectual property and repressing dissent. But, as Ana might say, that would be hard.