“If you dig a bit further into the legislative and lobbying priorities of those politicians and businesses now fighting off “protectionism,” you see that by “free trade” many powerful folks in Washington really mean whatever policies help well-connected multinational businesses,” San Francisco Examiner columnist Timothy P. Carney writes.
Carney points out that the man now in charge of the U.S. Commerce Department - an agency vital to the nation’s trade policies - is a walking contradiction and a shining example of this double standard.
Former Washington governor Gary Locke is an avid “free trader.” During his time as governor, from 1997 to 2004, he led eight trade missions to China to support increasing business between the Communist regime and Washington.
"I believe it's in the interests of the United States politically and economically to forge a strong partnership with China,” The Seattle Times quoted him as saying in 2006. “If the Chinese can't buy U.S. products, they'll buy them from European countries and then develop stronger economic ties with France and Germany and perhaps side more with those countries when international issues flare up."
Yet, at the same time, Locke engineered a $3.2 billion package of tax breaks to Boeing - a $3.2 billion distortion of trade.
“Exempting our largest exporter from tax laws that apply to other businesses is effectively an export subsidy,” Carney writes. “The Department of Commerce is, in essence, providing corporate welfare. But these government interventions don’t seem to bother today’s free-trade evangelists.”
Another perfect example of the trade hypocrisy demonstrated by the-powers-that-be was during the debate surrounding the most recent stimulus package. While a business lobbying group made up of the nation’s top CEO’s was salivating over the idea of billions of dollars in taxpayer money wantonly handed out to their members, they adamantly opposed the “buy America” provision in the package.
The bottom line is, an unfettered “free trade” agenda is espoused by corporate America and their enablers in Washington only when it will be good for big business. When protectionist measures are imposed that are good for big business, those same critic’s lips are sealed.
“This is the big business argument: Lowering trade barriers and subsidizing certain business activities are good for the economy,” Carney writes. “That’s a debatable stance, but at least it’s honest. The politicians, on the other hand, praise “free trade” as a matter of principle, while abandoning that principle at home.”