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Obama Presidency: Stricter on Trade

Published November 6, 2008

WASHINGTON D.C. (BRAIN)—Barack Obama's presidency will mean a more challenging trade environment with stricter regulations than is the case with the Bush administration, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

“The new administration will be enforcing existing trade laws much more than in the past,” said Alexander Boian, director of trade policy for the Outdoor Industry Association, on a Web conference yesterday, discussing what an Obama presidency will mean to the outdoor industry.

There will be greater environmental and labor standards in an Obama administration. According to Boian, OIA is well positioned on both fronts, being a bridge to both communities. “We’re viewed (by those in Washington) as a consensus builder,” Boian said. “We speak both languages.”

Obama has staked a clear, homefield position on trade, according to Boian. For instance, Obama wants to give credits to American companies for hiring U.S.-based workers. He’s also promised to beef up U.S. enforcement efforts against unfair trade practices and increase resources at the U.S. Trade Representative's office.

Obama said in a recent letter to a U.S. textile group that he was concerned about a surge in clothing imports from China when quotas negotiated by the Bush administration expire at the end of the year.

"China must change its policies, including its foreign exchange policies, so that it relies less on exports and more on domestic demand for its growth," Obama said in a letter to the National Council of Textile Organizations.

Obama also wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico so it has more favorable terms for U.S. workers. He wants to expand the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which trains workers who lose their jobs because of off-shoring.

Obama will be looking to create five million new "green jobs" and invest $150 billion over 10 years in biofuels and fuel infrastructure, plug-in hybrids, commercial-scale renewable energy, low-emissions coal plants, and a new digital electricity grid.

Speaking of green, what about bikes?

The 2009 reauthorization of federal transportation funding (which includes major support for bicycling facilities and programs) will be one of the industry’s major causes heading into the Obama tenure, with advocacy groups such as Bikes Belong and the International Mountain Bicycling Association leading the charge, according to OIA vice president of government affairs Amy Roberts.

During an Obama fundraiser in June, attended by some of the industry's most prominent players including Bikes Belong's Tim Blumenthal and SRAM's Stan Day, Obama said that if he were elected president he would increase funding for cycling and pedestrian projects including Safe Routes to School. Although talk is cheap—especially in a presidential election year—Obama told the crowd he seldom makes promises on what he would do if elected president, but that this was a promise he would keep.

For more on what the Obama presidency will mean to the bicycle industry, be sure to the read the December issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

—Jason Norman

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