Is President Bush’s diplomacy too one-sided? Over the last seven years, has the United States neglected its traditional allies? Should our next president make a special effort to repair relations with Europe?

If you said “yes” to any of these questions, then you shouldn’t let another minute slip by without declaring your support for Yoofta.

No, that’s not the name of a new French cheese. It’s the correct way to pronounce “EUFTA”–i.e., the European Union Free Trade Agreement.

You’d think that two of Bush’s most vocal critics on trade policy–Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama–would love EUFTA. After all, they’ve claimed time and again that the current administration has driven a wedge between the United States and Europe. They’ve promised, if elected, to make reestablishing old friendships a national priority.

So wouldn’t it make sense to begin with an initiative to lower the artificial barriers that block the free flow of goods and services between Americans and Europeans? Government-imposed tariffs and duties do nothing but keep us apart.

Recently, presidential candidate John McCain touted the idea of boosting trade with the EU: “They are one of the largest economic blocs in the world, if not the largest,” he said. “A free-trade agreement with the European Union would be a great thing.”

He’s right about that: More trade with Europe means more opportunities for Americans to sell their products abroad. During times of economic uncertainty–like right now, as we possibly head into recession–finding new ways to boost our export industry makes a lot of sense.

As with any trade agreement, the devil would be in the details–and in any accord with Europe, there would be an awful lot of details. Yet there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying. Not only could we spur commerce and create jobs by reducing or eliminating tariffs, but also by smoothing out regulatory differences. Farmers in particular would benefit if the EU were to shed some of its skepticism toward biotech crops.

Given the incredible promise of EUFTA, it would seem that Senators Clinton, Obama and McCain should hold a debate over which of them likes the idea more.

Instead, we are hearing a lot of ‘trade bashing’ with America’s best friends. Senators Clinton and Obama oppose the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, a pact that offers a pair of distinct benefits by improving our domestic economy and helping our country’s closest ally in Latin America.

Last week, Clinton demoted her top strategist, Mark Penn, for supporting the deal privately and meeting with Colombia’s ambassador to the United States. That seems like an odd way to enhance America’s standing in the world.

Obama has his own problems. He recently caused a row in Canada when he distanced himself from one of his economic advisors. Austan Goolsbee met with Canadian officials and apparently told them not to worry about Obama’s protectionist rhetoric against the North American Free Trade Agreement. Obama’s response was essentially to tell Canada: Yes, you should worry.

The result of all this trade bashing is apprehension abroad, especially among foreign officials. “We’re all watching Obama with bated breath and hoping [his election] will be a transforming moment for the world,” said a Latin American diplomat, according to Newsweek. “But now that we’re listening to him on trade–the issue that affects us so deeply–we realize that maybe he doesn’t wish us well. In fact, we might find ourselves nostalgic for Bush.”

Last week, the Bush administration formally sent the Colombia FTA to Congress, only to watch protectionists in the House prevent a vote by changing the rules. When a reporter asked U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab to describe what this legislative trickery would mean for workers, farmers, and businesses, she replied with a question: “What’s a more diplomatic word for ‘screwed’?”

She later revised her comment with a euphemism: They’d be “adversely affected,” she said.

Enough is enough. Protectionism won’t unscrew relations with America’s allies. Let’s abandon the euphemisms–and demand Yoofta!

Dean Kleckner, an Iowa farmer, chairs Truth About Trade & Technology. www.truthabouttrade.org

Dean Kleckner

Dean Kleckner

Deceased (1932-2015)

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