Saturday, October 8, 2016

More evidence-free cheer-leading for "free trade"

I see where Toronto Star business columnist David Olive has another screed on view about how great globalization/free trade is for us; World must accept realities of globalization.

Oh, must it really?

Is this an article about actual facts, or is it vacuous pro business propaganda? I've read it through a few times, and I can find no reason why the "world must accept realities of globalization."

The sub-head kind of gives the game away, doesn't it? If you're iffy about "free trade" you're obviously a xenophobe. Nobody in Canada wants to be a xenophobe. Heck, if you're a xenophobe in Canada you're probably a scab-picking opioid addict who hates immigrants and sympathises with the racist Trump campaign. Who wants to be tarred with that brush?

Here are David Olive's proofs that free trade is great.

Here are some inconvenient truths for free trade critics:
  • To oppose free trade now is to close the barn door long after horse has gone. Due to the lingering malaise from the Great Recession, growth in trade this year will be a mere 1.7 per cent, compared with an annual 7 per cent in the 1980s and 1990s. Growth in world trade has been slowing to a crawl for years.
Hmm... was not the Great Recession the result of the Lehman collapse, which was a result of the deregulation that is part and parcel of globalization?
  • The decline of globalization is bad for poor people. More vigorous trade among countries over the past generation is the leading factor in the reduction of extreme poverty worldwide, which has been cut in half over the past two decades. About three years ago, the UN was able report that for the first time in history, the number of poor people in the world had ceased to grow, and is now in decline.
This is a result of "free trade?" Really? The biggest improvements in poverty stats over the past generation have come from India and China. Show me the free trade agreements that made this improvement possible.
  • The goods that account for so many of the offerings at Wal-Mart, Costco, Dollarama, Home Depot and the like — imported from China, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Vietnam and other lower-wage countries — have for the past three decades reduced the rate of inflation in North America by about 1 per cent a year. Considering that the current rate of inflation in each of Canada and the U.S. is 1.1 per cent, that’s no small number. Globalization raises incomes in emerging economies, while in the West it drives down the cost of living.
There you have it, working class America; your wages have been stagnant for forty years but you can buy a 52 inch flat-screen TV for under five hundred bucks at Wal-Mart, so stop whining already.
  • Any business or country intent on growing its sales or economy is compelled to seek free-trade access to emerging economies. There just isn’t enough GDP growth in the mature economies to sustain growth rates of more than 1 per cent or 2 per cent. The fastest-growing markets for the West’s high-priced goods, including cars, energy-efficient appliances and mainframe computers — are located among the emerging economies, greater access to which the vilified trade deals would make possible.
Growth growth growth... if we're to have a sustainable economy and a sustainable planet, we seriously need to get away from this obsession with growth. Why can't we have sustainable stability instead?
  • Especially in the U.S., trade deals are condemned as job killers. But it’s not the fault of any trade deal that North America has starved its social infrastructure, notably education. We haven’t confronted technology’s impact on low-income workers who often are “precariously employed,” lacking job security. The U.S. ranks a dismal 30th in student test scores, and Canada ranks an unimpressive 13th. North America’s real problems include income inequality; gender bias in hiring, pay and promotions; the affordable housing shortage; and the impact of private-sector underfunding of R&D.
And how will the TPP and the other trade agreements in the pipeline rectify any of those problems? 
  • No question, the TPP is ambitious. Of course, its stated aims include spurring economic growth in Canada, the U.S. and the 10 other founding TPP members. But it also promotes faster access to cheaper generic drugs (much to the annoyance of Big Pharma); eradication of child labour and forced labour; the right to collective bargaining (that could be a problem for Southern U.S. states that effectively prohibit unionization, a major contributor to income inequality); improvement in workplace conditions, notably safety; and stricter environmental protections. That’s a short list of both social and economic improvements the TPP, CETA and the TTIP are committed to achieving.
Olive is writing pure fiction now. TPP will reduce prices for prescription drugs? That's not what I've been reading. And Big Pharma is annoyed with the TPP? Olive knows this how? Big Pharma has been inside the TPP tent while the agreement was crafted. The media and politicians were not. There's been zero transparency about the TPP, and what little we know comes from unauthorized leaks. But Olive knows Big Pharma is annoyed?

I don't think so.

But my biggest problem with Olive's vapid spot of cheer-leading was this non-sequitur in the middle of his story;

 We’ve seen the 1965 Auto Pact transform southern Ontario into an industrial powerhouse. 

What's David been smoking? Not that I disagree with the statement that the Auto Pact transformed southern Ontario into an industrial powerhouse, but because the Auto Pact was the very opposite of a free trade agreement!

The Auto Pact was about strictly regulated trade, not "free trade."

And what's happened to that southern Ontario industrial powerhouse since NAFTA?

Southern Ontario's powerhouse manufacturing sector was utterly decimated by NAFTA. I know, because I used to work there. 

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