John Engler’s Trail of Destruction

After moving the formerly progressive state of Michigan along the road to corporate serfdom, former Governor John Engler moved seamlessly to the much higher paying position as President of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) in Washington, D.C.

The internal tensions of large trade associations are rarely the subject of reporters’ attentions. For if they were, they would discover an ongoing conflict between Mr. Engler with his giant multinational corporate brethren and some mostly domestic manufacturers upset with his all out support of corporate globalization policies-NAFTA and WTO style.

Nowadays, Engler and his Big Boys are not happy with executives at Nucor corporation-one of the largest steel producers in the United States with facilities in 14 states. The feeling is mutual. Along with a growing number of stateside manufacturers, Nucor would like Mr. Engler to recognize some of the adverse realities which flow from the deindustrialization of American due to unfair global trade practices and models.

On a general plane, NAM keeps pushing the White House and Congress for trade agreements and policies that have taken the United States from its status as the world’s leading creditor (they owed us) in 1980 to by far the world’s leading debtor (we owe them trillions of dollars). For over 27 straight years, our country has chalked up rapidly rising trade deficits. This year the trade deficit alone will exceed $800 billion. This year, countries like China and Japan will loan us money (buying U.S. treasury bonds) to finance these deficits, thus postponing the day of reckoning.

Nucor’s concerns were reflected recently by a remarkable new coalition of grassroots organizations representing farmers, workers and manufacturers which met the week of November 15, 2006 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Their statement of purpose declares: “Multinational corporate-controlled globalization is undermining the well being and prosperity of farmers and rural America, working families, domestic manufacturers, and the service industries depending upon them.

“Existing trade agreements have caused tremendous trade deficits, harmed future American innovation prospects, resulted in tens of thousands of manufacturing company closures, and eliminated millions of manufacturing jobs. They have also compromised national security and undermined national sovereignty.

“We are committed to developing a New Global Trade and Investment Agenda that serves the people who make and grow things in all countries. The agenda must include and improve labor and environmental standards, food security, and national security. It must realign corporate and trade objectives to serve the nation’s public and private interests.”

The declaration was signed by the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), the National Farmers Union, the California Farmers Union, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference and the American Corn Growers Association, among others.

Fred Stokes, the executive director of OCM, army veteran and defender of family agriculture, was a sparkplug for this conference and is planning a much larger gathering in Washington, D.C. next March.

The Breakout sessions were framed by specific questions. Has the globalization model provided equal opportunity for all participants in the economic system? Has it increased or decreased risk in the food system? Has it increased or decreased national security risks? Has it weakened or enhanced national sovereignty and Democracy?

This focus should attract a substantial number of the American people and broaden the ways of evaluating these trade agreements, as if people matter first, not as if the NAM’s dominant powers over government are to continue making the rules.

The use of the phrase “free trade” to describe NAFTA and WTO is ludicrous. For one thing, there can be no “free trade” with dictatorial nations like China because so many of the labor and other costs are dictated by the central government, not by markets or free collective bargaining. For another thing, these trade agreements are full of monopolies such as long western-type patent grants which are the antithesis of “free trade.”

Lastly, as Public Citizen’s director of Global Trade Watch, Lori Wallach, demonstrates, holding up a giant compendium of NAFTA and WTO rules: “If there was ‘free trade,’ a couple of pages would do. This is about who write the rules. This is about corporate managed trade.”

For more information, see www.competitivemarkets.com <http://www.competitivemarkets.com/>.



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Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

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