Thursday, May 19, 2005

Free Trade?

The Chinese join the WTO and the fair trade regime and what do the US and Europe do? Slap quotas on textiles when their industries start to dry up as a result of competition.

The US has used the tariff since the Washington administration. It protected the domestic market and created the most powerful industrial economy in the world. At this point, near the turn of the 20th century, the US said the entire world needs to embrace free trade and banish the dreaded tariff or else. Free trade is great when you don't have anyone to compete with. You think Nicaragua will be selling any airplanes soon?

The recent "free trade" regime that is sweeping the globe is hardly free. NAFTA, CAFTA, GATT, the EU agreements, etc... All are extremely complex negotiated agreements on what can come in and out of nations with certain nations and industries doing better than others.

"Protectionism" is a nationalist game that favors one nation over another and fans national chauvinism. However, without corporatism where would Sweden, Finland or Norway be today? The national wage can certainly be raised through such organization of labor, business and the state. Should they have joined the Soviet Union under Stalin? No.

The ideal solution is a truly international labor movement. But what do we do in the meantime?

1 comment:

OscarTate said...

In the meantime, we try to build that international movement. Fair trade (as opposed to free trade) regimes seem like a pretty good idea, but just a drop in the bucket. Boycotts are often proposed, but I have always thought that the vote with your dollars, markets equal democracy game was pretty hollow -- I do it anyway, but am not convinced of any kind of revolutionary potential of it. How do you build real international solidarity that way? When the poorest three billion people in the world make under a thousand dollars a year, the vote with your dollars scheme seems a game only "first worlders" can play. That's hardly joining with the "hewers of wood and drawers of water" in their own liberation. Which brings it back around to that age old question: "What is to be done?" I don't know. Here, we have the opportunity to let experiments in the rest of the world flourish by just refusing to support our government when it decides to murder the experimenters.

Paul