Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The High Cost Of Free Trade

Despite the rhetoric by our political and corporate overlords about the wondrous benefits of free trade, multitudes of people on both sides of the border are becoming increasingly aware of its true costs.

In today's Star, readers weigh in with their usual penetrating insights:
Re: Next U.S. president won't nix trade pacts, March 19

As free trade deals are in the spotlight this U.S. election cycle most of the discussions are vague in details, often serving up false choices or straw men instead of pragmatic insight into the issue. This is common practice among politicians, I’m not surprised. Even Bernie Sanders is kind of vague, or when he is detailed the media cuts to commercial.

But I am very surprised at David Olive with comments like, “And that also has nothing to do with trade deals” in reference to low wages and anti-unionization practices in America. I believe that with free trade deals, employers have gained tremendous leverage over labour with the simple threat of “accept our offer of a low wage or we ship your job overseas.”

Empirical evidence sure leads us to this conclusion. I sure don’t see free trade bringing us tonnes more good paying jobs as was the selling feature a few decades ago. Now new trade deals are just presented as “good for the economy.”

Then after trying to justify current trade practices as good, David Olive suggests the poor economy “has almost everything to do with three decades of bipartisan public policy that has withheld economic fairness from the majority of the U.S. population.” Well please be specific. What exactly are those unfair economic policies? Perhaps labour outsourcing, which free trade enabled. Or union busting, again enabled by the tremendous leverage trade deals granted employers.

If the argument that technology has replaced many of the jobs, why did factories move to cheaper labour markets.

Don’t take me wrong, I agree with free trade. My maple syrup for your grapefruits duty free, no problem. I’m even happy with CCM skates on the retail shelf with Asia-branded and produced skates right beside them, duty free. Now that’s free trade.

Let’s compete for market share and the consumer wins. But anecdotally, CCM skates made in Asia and sold here is not in the implied spirit of free trade.
What we’re experiencing now is vastly advantageous to corporate owners, not at all for workers.

As Donald Trump offers up scenarios of China vs America in trade deals we see one of those false choices. It’s really ownership vs labour; China is just the benefactor. China did not dictate that American companies move to China; the American companies made those choices.

Another sidebar advantage for ownership under free trade is by having local jurisdictions offering up low property taxes and such incentives to attract manufacturing plants. These trade deals are sure looking lopsided.

Doug Lata, Pickering

Re: TPP will put Canadian concerns up against U.S. demands, March 21

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has devastating potential in terms of our environment and our democracy. It gives big business and industry powers equal to or greater than that of our elected officials.

The people of Canada didn’t vote for international big business in our election; we voted for elected representation. The TPP would diminish our nation’s sovereignty and allow other nations to set our standards and pricing. International trade is a great idea but not at the cost of our nation and democracy.

Justin Trudeau must stand by his election promise and allow public consultation on this deal. This is a deal that will directly affect many Canadians and we need to be heard.

Barbara Rose, Toronto
With "Full speed ahead" the battle cry of our intrepid 'masters,' expect nothing to change in the foreseeable future.


  1. These deals Lorne, should be called what they are Neoliberal Global Deals benefiting the 1% and leading to corporate rule. There is nothing free about them. Their called Free Trade to passify the citizens of Nation States. The ISDS clause contained in these deals is a dead give away to how Global Neoliberals plan to change Nation States from the rule of law to Corporate rule.The TPP is the mother of all power grabs. Telling Canadians that these deals are to do with free trade and everyone will benefit is sheer propaganda, maybe even lying. When Freeland, the Trade Minister spoke of CETA as being gold plated, I knew the fix was in. This business of amending the ISDS is BS. What should be asked is why is the ISDS clause in the deals to begin with. The answer to that will tell you everything you want to know about these "Free" trade deals. "Free" trade deals, what an ingenius way for the global elite to control the worlds wealth. They cannot do this however without the approval of a sovereign countries government. The ultimate goal of the Global elite is to eliminate all independent Nation States. In the developing countries when they vote in a government who wants to control their own wealth and say no to Neoliberalism, they are greeted with severe violence by the global power elite usually comprised of the US, France and Britain.This violence is usually masked as an uprising of the people against its government.This is the propaganda fed to citizens of the west.Sierra Leone is a good example of this. Another way for the global elite to continue exploiting a countries wealth is simply by threat. In S. Africa there already was a Neoliberal infrastructure in place. Mandela was warned that if he sought to dismantle this infrastructure there would be civil war. The power elite would have had no problem creating this civil war. Mandela knew it and conceded. He had already seen enough bloodshed and death in his life time.With a western democracy like Canada getting consent is preferred. So far Canada has agreed with approving these deals.Harper of course loved them. They were another way of sacrificing Canada's wealth on the alter of Global Neoliberalism and reinforcing his authoritarian power, while undermining Canadian Sovereignty.What will Trudeau do? Judging by the spin Freeland gave about CETA, I don't think it looks good for rejecting the TPP.I hope Trudeau enjoyed his Washington visit because Obama held it for him because he wanted confirmation that Trudeau would approve the TPP. Ratifying the TPP will require the surrender of Canadian sovereignty. Our government may very well be selling our freedom and democracy to the highest bidder.So much for The Charter of Rights and Freedom! Sorry this comment is so lengthy Lorne, but this is a subject that concerns me very much.

    1. No apologies necessary, Pamela. I always enjoy reading your insights. Should you ever wish to do a guest post, just send it along under the contact form in the upper left and part of this blog.

      I find it hard to believe that the ISDS does not get more scrutiny in the MSM. As you say, it surely epitomizes the essence of these deals, and serves as a blueprint for the corporate agenda.

      Freeland, with her earlier extollment of CETA, has proven to be a real disappointment as Trade Minister, but then again, i doubt many of us really expected anything different, given the Liberals love all such things.

  2. thx. Lorne. I may take you up on the guest post.

  3. I think we're witnessing the final and worst throes of globalization, Lorne. The jig is up. Populism is spreading in response to neoliberalism (free market fundamentalism) and globalism. Here's a line from an article in today's Australian Business Review: "Neoliberalism was always sold as a non-populist policy: rather like castor oil, it was supposed to taste bad, but prove ultimately to be good for you. Now, after 30 years of consumption, the public is saying that it tasted bad, and the outcome was bad too."

    During the waning days of the Occupy movement I wrote that it wasn't over, defeated, because the underlying insult that fueled it had not been addressed and would only worsen. Unfortunately this discontent is purpose suited to exploitation by charismatics.

    That's one thing that most bothered me in the NDP's drift to the centre. Now is the time when we most need a strong voice of the Left, a champion of labour. Instead if that, Layton and Mulcair chose to transform their party into Latter Day Liberals.

    The pendulum is swinging back. Globalism is a dead and failed ideology. The public wants redistributive solutions. Our political parties can no longer govern as though we're still in the 80s. They either have to change course, get ahead of what is building, or we risk succumbing to a charismatic of our own making.

    1. Point well-taken, Mound. The 'charismatic' Donald Trump is surely tapping into a well of deep discontent with his particular form of populism; his words about free trade, of course, are without heat, since it is people like him and his family who benefit most from globalization. Witness his daughter, Ivanka, whose shoe lines are made in China.