January 29, 2013 12:05PM

And Congressmen with Consumers as Constituents Outnumber Both

It seems that talks about a possible transatlantic trade deal between the United States and the EU are ongoing. Speaking at Davos, soon‐​to‐​be‐​ex U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told reporters that the United States was keen to lower trade barriers on goods and services flowing between the two economies, but wants to make sure that the political ducks are in a row first. One hurdle? Famers. Apparently he wants to make sure that U.S. farmers are comfortable with the deal before proceeding, as they have the power to block any deal once it comes before Congress. From the New York Times on Sunday:

But Mr. Kirk noted that members of Congress with farmers as constituents far outnumbered those whose districts included big companies like Boeing or Apple that would benefit from a trade deal. “Agriculture tends to be a challenging issue,” he said.

Ugh. Again with the implication that the benefits of trade come from exports, and flow to big corporations. As far as the congressional maths is concerned, Mr Kirk fails to recognize that members of Congress with consumers as constituents– that is, all of them– far outnumber those whose districts include either “big companies like Boeing or Apple” or farmers (who may also see higher export sales, in any case). Consumers have long been the silent, long‐​suffering minority when it comes to political support for free trade, but it would be nice if we had a trade representiative willing to make their case. Perhaps Mr. Kirk’s successor will be more bold.