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Government selectors, pages, etc.
Globaloney: Why the Democrats’ Love Affair With “Free Trade” Is Over
By Donna
August 30, 2023 8:56 am
Category: Government

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In this piece, Robert Reich who worked in the Clinton Administration lauds Biden's pivot away from free trade agreements and toward expanding and strengthening US manufacturing.

I've long been opposed to free trade agreements and argued against them on this forum long before some of you started posting here. It's heartening and vindicating for me to see Biden take a more progressive stance against the Clinton-Obama orthodoxy on free trade. I think he's been listening to Bernie Sanders.

Here's Robert Reich's entire piece:

Friends,

President Biden is making a break with decades of free trade deals and embarking on an industrial policy designed to revive American manufacturing.

This has caused consternation among some of my former colleagues from the Clinton and Obama administrations.

For example, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers last month called the president’s thinking “increasingly dangerous” and expressed concern about what he termed “manufacturing-centered economic nationalism that is increasingly being put forth as a general principle to guide policy.”

Well, this veteran of the Clinton administration is delighted by what Biden is doing.

Clinton and Obama thought globalization inevitable and bought into the textbook view that trade benefits all parties. “Globalization is not something we can hold off or turn off,” Clinton explained to the media. “It is the economic equivalent of a force of nature, like wind or water.”

But “globalization” is not a force of nature. How it works and whom it benefits or harms depend on specific, negotiated rules about which assets will be protected and which will not.

In most trade deals, the assets of American corporations (including intellectual property) have been protected. If another nation adopts strict climate regulations that reduce the value of U.S. energy assets in that country, the country must compensate the American firms. Wall Street has been granted free rein to move financial assets into and out of our trading partners.

But the jobs and wages of American workers have not been protected. Why shouldn’t American corporations that profit from trade be required to compensate American workers for job losses due to trade?

The age-old economic doctrine of “comparative advantage” assumes that more trade is good for all nations because each trading partner specializes in what it does best. But what if a country’s comparative advantage comes in allowing its workers to labor under dangerous or exploitative conditions?

Why shouldn’t America’s trading partners be required to have the same level of worker safety as in the United States or give their own workers the same rights to organize unions?

Globalization doesn’t answer these sorts of questions. Instead, the rules that emerge from trade negotiations reflect domestic politics and power.

The Clinton administration lobbied hard for NAFTA. In the end, Congress ratified it, with more Republican than Democratic votes. Additional trade agreements followed, along with the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and opening trade relations with China, which joined the WTO in 2001.

Trade rose from 19 percent of the U.S. economy in 1989 to 31 percent in 2011, according to the World Bank. (By 2021, following Trump’s trade war with China and the pandemic, trade’s share of the U.S. economy had drifted down to 25 percent.)

These trade deals have benefited corporations, big investors, executives, Wall Street traders, and other professionals.

The pharmaceutical industry has gotten extended drug patents in Mexico, China, and elsewhere. Wall Street banks and investment firms have made sure they can move capital into and out of these countries despite local banking laws. American oil companies can seek compensation if a country adopts new environmental standards that hurt their bottom lines.

The stock market responded favorably. In 1993, when Clinton took office, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average peaked at 3,799. By the time he left office in 2001, it had topped 11,000.

Middle- and working-class Americans benefited from these deals as consumers — gaining access to lower-priced goods from China, Mexico, and other countries where wages were lower than in the United States.

But the trade deals also caused millions of American jobs to be lost, and the wages of millions of Americans to stagnate or decline. Between 2000 and 2017, a total of 5.5 million manufacturing jobs vanished. Automation accounted for about half of the loss. Imports, mostly from China, the other half.

You can trace a direct line from these trade deals and the subsequent job losses to the rise of Donald Trump in 2016.

Economists have estimated that, if America had imported half of what China exported to us during these years, four key states — Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina — would have swung Democratic, delivering the presidency to Hillary Clinton.

Whether globalization is good or bad depends on who gets most of its benefits and who pays most of its costs. For too long, American workers have paid substantially.

The Biden administration is changing this. I say, it’s about time.


Cited and related links:

  1. rsn.org

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Comments on "Globaloney: Why the Democrats’ Love Affair With “Free Trade” Is Over":

  1. by Ponderer on August 30, 2023 9:01 am

    Great piece. He's long been one of my favorites.


  2. by HatetheSwamp on August 30, 2023 9:09 am

    Ah, Robert Reich!

    Back in the day, Rush produced hours of entertainment using Reich as his target.

    Good times.


  3. by Indy! on August 30, 2023 11:40 am

    I remember Curt's arguments that all globalization was a good thing. I warned this is what was going to happen and - as always - you guys pretended like i was crazy. That said, I doubt Biden gets very far with this - IF - indeed he is even attempting it. More likely it's just more talk aimed to bring in sucker votes because the race hasn't even really started and he's already in trouble.


  4. by Ponderer on August 30, 2023 11:47 am

    "Back in the day, Rush produced hours of entertainment using Reich as his target." -Hate


    No doubt! I'll bet he did. That's so bitchin'!

    The right only goes after foes who are doing a tremendous job and/or are actually a threat to them. They attack their strengths and try to make them look incompetent. Classic righ twing tactic.

    Robert Reich is really great. It warms my heart to no end to hear that Rush was spending so much time on him. Extremely encouraging. That's proof how good Reich is right there. Thanks, Bill!


  5. by Donna on August 30, 2023 12:14 pm

    "...you guys pretended I was crazy." - Indy

    Not me. I argued extensively with Curt over free trade agreements.


  6. by HatetheSwamp on August 30, 2023 12:20 pm

    Baha

    The right only goes after foes who are doing a tremendous job...

    Being someone who avoids the right-wing SwampMedia like it contains the plague, you claim to know a lot about it keehee.

    No.

    There's a quirkiness about Reich that ol Rush found amusing. But, yikes! That was the early days. Years ago.


  7. by Curt_Anderson on August 30, 2023 1:04 pm
    "I argued extensively with Curt over free trade agreements." --Donna

    Donna,
    Tariffs are the enemy of free trade. How do tariffs benefit anybody? For example, the tariffs on foreign cars coming into the US is 2.5%. So that adds to $500 to the price of a car that would sell for $20,000. Obviously that doesn't benefit the car buyer.

    No tariffs on any imported product helps the consumer. The Trump administration on Wednesday slapped 25% tariffs on cheese and other European Union products ranging from whisky to woolens. I don't know if it is still in effect.

    Since the foreign countries that are the target of US tariffs invariably retaliate with tariffs of their own on the goods we export, that hurts Americans who make or grow and sell items abroad.

    The net result of tariffs is increase the price of goods and to reduce consumer choices.

    To be clear, foreign manufacturers should be subject to the same regulations as domestic manufacturers. For example, we don't allow kids to work in factories. US manufacturers have to meet certain environmental standards.



  8. by Donna on August 30, 2023 1:32 pm

    Reich isn't advocating for or even talking about implementing tariffs.


  9. by Curt_Anderson on August 30, 2023 1:39 pm
    If Robert Reich is against tariffs, and apparently he is (see link), whether it is called free trade or fair trade, then I agree with him.
    salon.com


  10. by Donna on August 30, 2023 2:00 pm

    NAFTA and other free trade agreements were written by corporate lawyers for the benefit of the corporations they worked for, with little to no regard for workers or the environment. That's what the left pointed out 20-30 years ago. B

    Before Reagan, the U.S. was the world's largest creditor. Today we're the world's largest debtor (as we've been for at least a decade), mostly because of free trade agreements and globalization.

    The US service economy that emerged as a result of de-industrialization predictably has been devastating to working-class Americans who have had to resort to working multiple minumum wage jobs with no benefits just to make ends meet all these years. If you're not one of those Americans, it's easy to get bamboozled by low unemployment stats which paint a distorted image of how well our economy is actually performing.


  11. by Indy! on August 30, 2023 2:06 pm

    Has anything ever come from anything Robert Reich says? Another limo lib who doesn't help the situation at all.

    So far as tariffs, Curt's argument also applies to taxes... something we use all the time to discourage purchases or use. Tobacco taxes, gas taxes, etc... That's what tariffs are for - the $500 extra on a Euro car to encourage Americans to buy American. Not saying it's good or not - just saying it's no different than taxes implemented for the same purpose. Or tax breaks to encourage people to buy - for instance the tax breaks on electric vehicles. I don't know if it's still true, but in the past the price of imported sugar was raised by taxes/tariffs to make it more economical to buy American sugar. Without the government stepping in - virtually everything we eat would be cheaper. That was done basically to save the Fanjul family's sugar interests here in Florida - nobody else.


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