Categories
Business

The Free Trade Myth, Explained

Milwaukee Venetian Blind Co Since 1936
Milwaukee Venetian Blind Co Since 1936

Gail Ablow tackles the question, “What is the difference between Fair Trade and Free Trade”…and discusses the oft-mentioned Tran-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Fair traders are in favor of government policies that protect workers, farmers and the environment, and they will pay a premium for fair trade-certified goods. Free traders favor less government regulation and fewer trade barriers between countries and want the market to determine the price of goods in the hope of having the most choices at the lowest prices. The two terms are not opposites, but in the real world “free trade” comes with costs — and the TPP trade agreement that the Obama administration recently finished negotiating is, in the view of many critics, a shining example of that.

All trade is political. All trade is about power.

When you buy something — a car, clothes, coffee, computer, a hamburger, you name it — international trade agreements affect the price and determine who profits from it. Proponents of free trade say businesses should thrive or fail in an open market without government interference such as protections, tariffs or subsidies.

But trade is about much more than the price of your shoes. In practice, the parties who craft trade agreements are less interested in unfettered markets and far more interested in increasing corporate profits and pursuing international strategic goals. “There is no such thing as free trade,” says Barry Lynn, director of the Open Markets Program at the New America Foundation. “The idea that there is a self-regulating marketplace out there is fundamentally wrong, as opposed to a bunch of power relationships between large corporations and nation-states. Put simply, free trade is a myth.”

According to Lynn, the main reason people promote this “myth” is to push the idea that “government should not regulate the large corporations that run the marketplace. The two groups who push this argument in a coherent manner are the libertarian right and the neoliberal left.”

Big Pharma benefits because the TPP extends patents, copyrights and other monopoly protections to companies that want to profit for as long as possible. In an interview with Bill Moyers in 2013, economist Dean Baker explained there is nothing “free market” about these corporate safeguards against competition that will prevent millions of people around the world from getting cheaper generic medicines. “If this was really about trade,” he said, “we’d be going, ‘How can we bring those prices down?’

Firms that want to sue governments also benefit. The TPP creates an extra-judicial process known as an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Foreign investors would be able to sue governments for compensation if they impose environmental, health and safety, and even labor regulations that result in lost profits to the company. These suits would be arbitrated by international tribunals that aren’t subject to US laws. There is no appeals process. Putting ISDS into such a sweeping deal, writes Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), “would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine US sovereignty… America’s current trade policy makes it nearly impossible to enforce rules that protect hard-working families, but very easy to enforce rules that favor multinational corporations.”

(click here to continue reading The Free Trade Myth, Explained – BillMoyers.com.)

Categories
politics

Will Clinton Support the TPP After All

Three Sides to Every Story
Three Sides to Every Story

Clinton triangulation is not a hidden character trait. Nor is her coziness with the money and power set in Wall Street, and populating the US Chamber of Commerce.

Gaius Publius of Hullabaloo notes a Bloomberg interview with Thomas Donohue regarding the anti-American Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, that seems to imply Ms. Clinton is saying something quite different in private than she does in public:

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue discusses his stance and outlook for the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. He speaks from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Bloomberg. In the conversation above, note first that the reason he thinks the Senate can’t approve TPP until after the election is that too many Republican senators would be made vulnerable by voting to approve it. Before the election those senators couldn’t vote for TPP and still preserve their seats. After the election, or in a lame duck session, that restriction is lifted.

In other words, he knows and admits that even Republican voters hate TPP. But the wealthy want it anyway, and they’re willing to wait a few months to get it. Even if it wins by “two votes,” as he explains above, it still wins, as do they.

Second, he thinks Clinton will revert back to the family pattern — remember, “two for the price of one” was a Clinton claim — and become “practical” once she gains power and frees herself from having to make promises to voters. Listen starting at 2:45 in the clip (my transcript and underscored emphasis):

Host 1: “Why aren’t you in some trouble whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican? It’s not just Trump. Hillary Clinton has said she’s against TPP.

Host 2: “Bernie Sanders!”

Donohue: “Bernie Sanders is one deal. What Hillary Clinton is doing in this primary is trying to run one step faster than the senator from Massachusetts [does he mean Warren, or is this a misspeak?], who has been threatening her and pushing her to take these far far progressive, very very left steps.

“If she were to get nominated, if she were to be elected, I have a hunch that what runs in the family is, you get a little practical if you ever get the job.”

Host 1: “We used to call it triangulation, right, back in the old Clinton days.”

For me, the key word is “hunch.” Because until Clinton releases the text of her speeches to all corporate clients, and not just to the banks, you’ll never know if his “hunch” didn’t start with someone whispering in his ear, “Don’t worry, Tom. You know I don’t mean it.” After all, the list of Clinton ties to money goes on and on. For an excellent recent analysis of the cross-pollination of gifts and favors, read this, “The Clinton System,” from the New York Review of Books.

Donohue is not no one — he and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are each a very big someone in the world of money, a world that both Clintons have a united and decades-long familiarity with. Just a very small taste of what’s in the NYRB article, this paragraph (my emphasis):

In March 2011, for example, Bill Clinton was paid $175,000 by the Kuwait America Foundation to be the guest of honor and keynote speaker at its annual Washington gala. Among the sponsors were Boeing and the government of Kuwait, through its Washington embassy. Shortly before, the State Department, under Hillary Clinton, had authorized a $693 million deal to provide Kuwait with Boeing’s Globemaster military transport aircraft. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton had the statutory duty to rule on whether proposed arms deals with foreign governments were in the US’s national interest.

That’s both damning and given the way of the world, at least ours, par for the course. A $175,000 “thank you” to one of the Clintons after the other removed the last hurdle to a nearly $700 million deal involving the same two parties — that’s some “system,” as the article calls it. There are countless examples of this in the NYRB piece. Coincidence? You decide.

(click here to continue reading Hullabaloo – Chamber of Commerce expects Clinton to support TPP as president.)