Battles in a bitterly divided Congress are rendering U.S. international economic policy impotent or counterproductive.
The eurozone has been attracting plenty of opprobrium for its dysfunctional handling of the sovereign debt crisis. But as Franšois Baroin, French finance minister, mischievously pointed out on a recent trip to Washington, the US also has problems. Whereas managing the euro requires laborious consultations with 17 national parliaments, he said, "here you seem to be having enough trouble with just one".
This week should have been a rare triumph for White House international economic policy. After protracted squabbling with, and inside, Congress, bilateral trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia negotiated four or five years ago by George W. Bush's administration are finally coming up for ratification.