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NYT: Itís No Time for Protectionism

Author: N. Mankiw
February 7, 2009

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WHAT approach will the Obama administration and the Democratic majority in Congress take on international economic policy? It is too early to say for sure, but the signs so far are worrying.

Just before his confirmation as Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner turned up the heat on the Chinese regarding the dollar-yuan exchange rate. President Obama, he said, "believes that China is manipulating its currency. Countries like China cannot continue to get a free pass for undermining fair-trade principles."

Like many economists, I cringe whenever I hear the term "fair trade." It is not that I am against fairness - who is? - but the word "fair" is so amorphous in this context as to defy definition. Most often, the slogan "fair trade" is little more than a rallying cry for protectionism.

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