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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/19/16

Has The Election Finally Killed TPP And Corporate "Free Trade"?

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"[. . .] These economists are totally fine with protectionism of all sorts, as long it benefits the wealthy and not ordinary workers."

Free trade was a big deal in the Michigan primary, helping Sanders score his upset win over Clinton. If you have seen Detroit and Flint and Pontiac (quick, what car was named after this city?) and other parts of Michigan devastated by free trade, you understand why. In a video released Tuesday and produced by the Campaign for America's Future, Robert Scott, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, calls for trade agreements that raise labor standards and the prospects for economic development in other countries rather than engaging them in a race to the bottom.

While the video focuses on the Michigan Democratic primary race, it covers the problems with our past trade agreements in general, and offers an alternative path that can lift workers and wages on all sides of trade borders.

Speaking of the need for alternatives to a corporate-dominated free trade agenda, Robert Reich, in "Are Trade Deals Good for America?" explains that trade has worsened inequality but is not the only factor.

"If you're well educated, free trade has given you better access to worldwide markets for your skills and insights -- resulting directly or indirectly in higher pay.

"On the other hand, if you're not well educated, the trade deals of the last quarter century have very likely taken away the factory job you (or your parents or grandparents) once relied on for steady work with good pay and generous benefits.

"These jobs were the backbone of the old American middle class. Now they're almost all gone, replaced by lower-paying service jobs in places like retail stores, restaurants, hotels, and hospitals.

"The change has been dramatic. A half century ago America's largest private-sector employer was General Motors, whose full-time workers earned an average hourly income (including health and pension benefits) of around $50, in today's dollars.

"Today America's largest employer is Walmart, whose typical employee earns just over $9 an hour. A third of Walmart's employees work less than 28 hours per week and don't even qualify for benefits.

"The core problem isn't really free trade, or even the loss of factory jobs per se. It's the demise of an entire economic system in which people with only high-school degrees, or less, could count on good and secure jobs.

"That old system included strong unions, CEOs with responsibilities to their employees and communities and not just to shareholders, and a financial sector that didn't demand the highest possible returns every quarter.

"Trade has contributed to the loss of this old system, but that doesn't necessarily mean we should give up on free trade. We should create a new system, in which a greater share of Americans can be winners."

Corporate America Tries To Rescue TPP, Free Trade

All this voter opposition to TPP and corporate free trade is making corporate America nervous. Wonkblog explains, in On free trade, this election is giving business the willies, that pro-trade forces are trying to figure out how to fight back.

"The [Washington Council on International Trade] coalition that helped pass critical legislation last year that binds Congress to voting a deal up or down without amendments -- known as trade promotion authority, or 'fast track' -- has been working during the primary season to place op-eds from small businesses in newspapers and reach out to others who might influence the relatively small population that votes in party primaries. On a higher level, groups like the Business Roundtable are trying to keep trade on the agenda for 2016 in desperate hope that it might pass before a new president takes office, despite increasingly negative signals from congressional leaders."

The multinationals are pushing the usual suspects to try to get the public on TPP's side, casting those who oppose this corporate trade deal (note that TPP isn't really about "trade" at all) as opposing the idea of trade itself. For example, Morton Kondracke and Matthew J. Slaughter write at The Wall Street Journal this week, in "Making the Case for Trade," began with this in the very first sentence: "Divided though the four leading presidential candidates are on so many topics, united they stand on one: the assertion that trade hurts America." The op-ed warned of "antitrade anecdotes" and did not once mention that the result of these agreements has been enormous, humongous trade deficits.

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Dave has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational (more...)

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