Jul 8, 2013

The Free-Trade Charade

NOTE: In the Americas Program we have been involved in analyzing and monitoring the impact of free trade agreements since the negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the early nineties, and the movements against imposing a global corporate agenda in the World Trade Organization--a battle largely won. Now the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) threatens to impose that agenda on a huge swath of the world, including Mexico. 

In this editorial, Nobel Laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz explains why this would be such a giant step backwards, especially for developing countries. We have to ask ourselves, why do the leaders of these countries--including Mexico, which requested incorporation in advanced negotiations where it did not even participate--agree to conditions that put them at a disadvantage in meeting their basic obligations to their people? The answer is unfortunately fairly clear: the leaders represent the interests of a narrow, now transnational, elite and what happens to the majority does not overly concern them. This is why citizens are organizing against the TPP. One of the biggest problems, as Stiglitz points out, is the U.S. government. The terms it imposes in the agreement and, as he puts it, its "commitment to a lack of transparency" has shrouded the whole deal in secrecy and made open debate and opposition nearly impossible. To find out more about the opposition in your area, contact: http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/ .  Ed. Laura Carlsen

Project Syndicate. By Joseph E. Stiglitz. Though nothing has come of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Round of global trade negotiations since they were launched almost a dozen years ago, another round of talks is in the works. But this time the negotiations will not be held on a global, multilateral basis; rather, two huge regional agreements – one transpacific, and the other transatlantic – are to be negotiated. Are the coming talks likely to be more successful?

The Doha Round was torpedoed by the United States’ refusal to eliminate agricultural subsidies – a sine qua non for any true development round, given that 70% of those in the developing world depend on agriculture directly or indirectly. The US position was truly breathtaking, given that the WTO had already judged that America’s cotton subsidies – paid to fewer than 25,000 rich farmers – were illegal. America’s response was to bribe Brazil, which had brought the complaint, not to pursue the matter further, leaving in the lurch millions of poor cotton farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and India, who suffer from depressed prices because of America’s largesse to its wealthy farmers. Read More...

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