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A conflict with Obama’s trade pledge

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Kai Ryssdal: The mismatch between how much stuff we buy from overseas and how much less stuff we sell abroad got smaller in January. Today’s report on the federal trade deficit was smaller overall, actually. There simply isn’t as much trade happening after the Great Recession.

The president took that report as a cue to make a pitch for his trade policy this morning. He’s promising to double American exports with tough enforcement of our trade agreements. He figures that’ll help create some of the new jobs that the economy so desperately needs.

But Marketplace’s John Dimsdale reminds us that nothing in Washington comes without compromise.

JOHN DIMSDALE: President Obama said export promotion is one path out of the economic doldrums.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: In a time when millions of Americans are out of work, boosting our exports is a short-term imperative.

To sell American products overseas, the president is backing financing for the Export-Import Bank, which lends money to potential exporters. But last year the Ex-Im Bank backed the exports of oil, gas, and mining technology and power plants. That represents a tripling of the pollution from the previous year’s underwriting.

Doug Norlen with Pacific Environment says these export policies are undermining Obama’s goal of cutting greenhouse gas pollution.

DOUG NORLEN: The Export-Import Bank is operating at cross purposes financing an exploding, a skyrocketing portfolio of fossil fuel projects.

But the chairman of the Ex-Im Bank, Fred Hochberg, says you can’t double exports and grow jobs if you only promote alternative energy projects.

FRED HOCHBERG: No. There’s not nearly enough of those clean energy exports to do that.

He says the Ex-Im Bank is supporting more solar power, too. But Pacific Environment’s Doug Norlen says the U.S. has been urging other countries to stop subsidizing oil, coal and gas.

NORLEN: And if we don’t do it ourselves, and in fact, if we do the opposite in financing an ever increasing amount of fossil fuel projects, we will appear hypocritical, and we won’t succeed in our climate change goals.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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