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American Style Free Trade

By       Message Stephen Lendman     Permalink
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American Style Free Trade - by Stephen Lendman

Agreements like NAFTA, DR-CAFTA, and various bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) have proved hugely destructive , superseding national laws, sovereignty, labor rights, environmental concerns, and more.

"There's no free collective bargaining for workers," says Ralph Nader. "There's no rule of law (either, just) bribery, (worker exploitation and plunder). These companies (can) pollute at will. There's no judicial independence to make (them) accountable," to stop them from "abus(ing) workers and consumers and communities, as" they all do repeatedly.

In other words, "free trade" is a license to steal, plunder, exploit, pollute, and overall operate unrestrained, the sole consideration being maximum profits, no matter how gotten.

As a result, level playing fields don't exist. Jobs are exported and destroyed. Corporate giants alone win, trade managed solely for their benefit. An Economic Policy Institute (EPI) study showed NAFTA-related imports cost America 879,280 jobs in its first decade, besides downward pressure on wages and benefits. Saying FTAs will create them is deceptive hooey, a big lie based on historical experience, instructive for Korean and American workers as Washington pressures Seoul for a deal, a KORUS-FTA.

If agreed, EPI estimates that imports will displace around 888,000 existing or potential US jobs by 2015, causing a net 322,000 loss, the differential over export produced ones. Obama said he wanted a Bush negotiated KORUS voted on by Congress by early 2011 the latest after unspecified modifications were made. However, the current text replicates NAFTA and DR-CAFTA, contradicting his promise to use trade as a vehicle to create jobs, assure worker rights, protect ecological sustainability, and ensure financial stability.

As in America, worker rights violations, for example, are widespread in Korea. Authorities use their "obstruction of business" law to imprison labor leaders and employers, often using police repressively against union activity. America is more subtle for similar results, organized labor here a shadow of its former self.

The 2007 KORUS text also prohibits restriction sizes of financial institutions or limitations on services they can provide. Moreover, there's no control over risk, speculative derivatives trading, or destabilizing capital flight. Yet both countries have since implemented new stability and regulatory measures, conflicting with the original agreement. Some of Korea's, however, were loosened, not tightened, and America's financial reform is more business as usual than change.

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In addition, the KORUS text lets foreign corporations privately enforce investor rights. As a result, they can directly challenge US laws in offshore courts seeking compensation for lost profits. Both countries have established businesses in the other. They'll thus get taxpayer subsidized payments for complying with environmental, public health, labor, financial, and other laws and regulations that violate KORUS provisions in its current form.

As now drafted, it also lets both nations ignore the International Labor Organization's (ILO) core conventions, nullifying its worker rights provisions. Overall, its limitations are as destructive as NAFTA, making its disturbing parts essential to renegotiate. According to Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Trade Watch division:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership "provides an opportunity to start from scratch in considering how to deliver the new American trade agreement model, as Obama (the candidate) promised."

Over 150 congressional members co-sponsored HR 3012 - the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment Act (The TRADE Act) - for trade agreements to deliver for the majority in areas of labor, human rights, environmental and public safety, food and product health and safety, various services, investment, procurement, intellectual property, agriculture, trade remedies and safeguards, dispute resolution and enforcement, technical assistance, national security, and taxation.

Now's the time to deliver as promised and set a standard for all agreements to follow. On September 17, Wallach explained that US export growth to non-FTA countries have been more than double our treaty partners.

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"That stunning finding should put an end to recent Obama administration talk about reviving three NAFTA-style FTA's leftover from the Bush era. And it should provide impetus to finally implement President Obama's campaign commitments to renogtiate aspects of the past FTAs, and create a new" US model going forward.

Besides increasing exports, job creation is the core justification for all trade deals. Yet Public Citizen's study "Lies, Damn Lies and Export Statistics" analyzes actual trade data. "It showed that, if exports to the 17 US FTA partners had only grown as much as exports to the rest of the world, (we'd) have had an extra $72 billion in exports over the past decade."

Point of fact: Contrary to NAFTA proponents, America's trade deficit with FTA partners increased, US producers losing out. Moreover, America's manufacturing base eroded, and its trade deficit ballooned. Yet, "corporate lobbyists unveiled a series of misleading and erroneous studies and talking points, alleging all sorts of" NAFTA-style benefits. "It is impossible to know whether these are deliberate attempts to distort the truth, or simply sloppy economics." Smart money says the former.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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