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Surprises in Obama’s speech

What limited foreign-policy-related moments there were in Obama’s speech tonight weren’t too surprising. He checked a few familiar boxes, such as terrorism, North Korea, Iran, and nuclear weapons.  But a couple moments caught my eye, for instance the section on energy, where he called for "building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants ...

What limited foreign-policy-related moments there were in Obama's speech tonight weren't too surprising. He checked a few familiar boxes, such as terrorism, North Korea, Iran, and nuclear weapons.  But a couple moments caught my eye, for instance the section on energy, where he called for "building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country" and said the United States needed to make "tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development." Not exactly the energy policy his supporters thought they voted for. 

Then there was his disappointing discussion of trade, which included a bizarre promise to double U.S. exports in five years. Does this mean he expects the dollar to drop dramatically? He also announced  the launching of "a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security" (more on that topic here), and vowed to "seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are." Nothing here, other than a cursory, noncommittal mention of the Doha round, indicates that Obama views trade as anything other than a zero-sum game. There's a name for this approach to trade: mercantilism.

What limited foreign-policy-related moments there were in Obama’s speech tonight weren’t too surprising. He checked a few familiar boxes, such as terrorism, North Korea, Iran, and nuclear weapons.  But a couple moments caught my eye, for instance the section on energy, where he called for "building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country" and said the United States needed to make "tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development." Not exactly the energy policy his supporters thought they voted for. 

Then there was his disappointing discussion of trade, which included a bizarre promise to double U.S. exports in five years. Does this mean he expects the dollar to drop dramatically? He also announced  the launching of "a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security" (more on that topic here), and vowed to "seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are." Nothing here, other than a cursory, noncommittal mention of the Doha round, indicates that Obama views trade as anything other than a zero-sum game. There’s a name for this approach to trade: mercantilism.

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