FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Why Firefighters are Against Free Trade

Paris.

The French demonstrators in the Nuit Debout movement (Up All Night) hope that a convergence of struggles will enable them to extend their appeal beyond the young and university-educated, and become part of an international dynamic. One of their campaign issues — the rejection of free trade treaties (1) — may help those objectives.

The intricacies of trade agreements often discourage protest, as it is very hard to know which stage of the process to scrutinise most closely, or which apparently technical measure may conceal potential social devastation. Yet despite the pro-treaty hype from politicians, bosses and media, hostility to these treaties is spreading. There is strong opposition to TAFTA (the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement) in Germany and Belgium (2).

In the US, all the main presidential candidates have now come out against TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership). Since the end of the second world war, the US empire has been the engine of trade liberalisation, and the consistency of views has been absolute among successive presidents, Democrat or Republican, from John F Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, George W Bush to Barack Obama. But suddenly, the neoliberal engine has stalled.

Few believed Obama’s claim that the “companies who only care about low wages have already moved”: offshoring continues in the United States, and previous trade agreements had promised plentiful jobs and good salaries. So it’s not surprising that candidates as different as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have achieved an electoral breakthrough by attacking such treaties, forcing Hillary Clinton to disavow her previous support for TPP while she was Obama’s secretary of state. François Hollande also seems to be about to change his mind on TAFTA, which he was in a hurry to sign two years ago.

Workers whose salaries have been hit by the threat of unemployment or relocation are no longer alone in rejecting free trade. Environmentalists, farmers and consumers have joined them. Public sector employees — even firefighters — are getting involved, so much so that a perplexed senior figure at the US Chamber of Commerce said: “None of these workers are in any way negatively affected by competition with imports” (3).

The public sector employees’ union knows it will not be able to defend its 2 million members’ jobs and pay for long if those of other workers continue to crumble. The firefighters know that if taxpaying businesses are replaced by an industrial wasteland, it will mean slashed municipal budgets, and fire station closures. A convergence of struggle has come of age — and already won its first victories.

Notes.

(1) See the special supplement on TTIP, Le Monde diplomatique, English edition, June 2014.

(2) See Amélie Canonne and Johan Tyszler, “Ces Européens qui défient le libre-échange” (The Europeans who are challenging free trade), Le Monde diplomatique, October 2015.

(3) Noam Scheiber, “Labour’s Might Seen in Failure of Trade Deal as Unions Allied to Thwart It”, The New York Times, 14 June 2015.

This article appears in the excellent Le Monde Diplomatique, whose English language edition can be found at mondediplo.com. This full text appears by agreement with Le Monde Diplomatique. CounterPunch features two or three articles from LMD every month.

More articles by:

Serge Halimi is president of Le Monde diplomatique

July 13, 2020
Gerald Sussman
The Russiagate Spectacle: Season 2?
Jack Rasmus
Why the 3rd Quarter US Economic ‘Rebound’ Will Falter
W. T. Whitney
Oil Comes First in Peru, Not Coronavirus Danger, Not Indigenous Rights
Ralph Nader
The Enduring Case for Demanding Trump’s Resignation
Raghav Kaushik – Arun Gupta
On Coronavirus and the Anti-Police-Brutality Uprising
Deborah James
Digital Trade Rules: a Disastrous New Constitution for the Global Economy Written by and for Big Tech
Howard Lisnoff
Remembering the Nuclear Freeze Movement and Its Futility
Sam Pizzigati
Will the Biden-Sanders Economic Task Force Rattle the Rich?
Allen Baker
Trump’s Stance on Foreign College Students Digs US Economic Hole Even Deeper
Binoy Kampmark
The Coronavirus Seal: Victoria’s Borders Close
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Power, Knowledge and Virtue
Weekend Edition
July 10, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Lynnette Grey Bull
Trump’s Postcard to America From the Shrine of Hypocrisy
Anthony DiMaggio
Free Speech Fantasies: the Harper’s Letter and the Myth of American Liberalism
David Yearsley
Morricone: Maestro of Music and Image
Jeffrey St. Clair
“I Could Live With That”: How the CIA Made Afghanistan Safe for the Opium Trade
Rob Urie
Democracy and the Illusion of Choice
Paul Street
Imperial Blind Spots and a Question for Obama
Vijay Prashad
The U.S. and UK are a Wrecking Ball Crew Against the Pillars of Internationalism
Melvin Goodman
The Washington Post and Its Cold War Drums
Richard C. Gross
Trump: Reopen Schools (or Else)
Chris Krupp
Public Lands Under Widespread Attack During Pandemic 
Alda Facio
What Coronavirus Teaches Us About Inequality, Discrimination and the Importance of Caring
Eve Ottenberg
Bounty Tales
Andrew Levine
Silver Linings Ahead?
John Kendall Hawkins
FrankenBob: The Self-Made Dylan
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Deutsche Bank Fined $150 Million for Enabling Jeffrey Epstein; Where’s the Fine Against JPMorgan Chase?
David Rosen
Inequality and the End of the American Dream
Louis Proyect
Harper’s and the Great Cancel Culture Panic
Thom Hartmann
How Billionaires Get Away With Their Big Con
REZA FIYOUZAT
Your 19th COVID Breakdown
Danny Sjursen
Undercover Patriots: Trump, Tulsa, and the Rise of Military Dissent
Charles McKelvey
The Limitations of the New Antiracist Movement
Binoy Kampmark
Netanyahu’s Annexation Drive
Joseph G. Ramsey
An Empire in Points
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
COVID-19 Denialism is Rooted in the Settler Colonial Mindset
Ramzy Baroud
On Israel’s Bizarre Definitions: The West Bank is Already Annexed
Judith Deutsch
Handling Emergency: A Tale of Two Males
Michael Welton
Getting Back to Socialist Principles: Honneth’s Recipe
Dean Baker
Combating the Political Power of the Rich: Wealth Taxes and Seattle Election Vouchers
Jonah Raskin
Edward Sanders: Poetic Pacifist Up Next
Manuel García, Jr.
Carbon Dioxide Uptake by Vegetation After Emissions Shutoff “Now”
Heidi Peltier
The Camo Economy: How Military Contracting Hides Human Costs and Increases Inequality
Ron Jacobs
Strike!, Fifty Years and Counting
Ellen Taylor
The Dark Side of Science: Shooting Barred Owls as Scapegoats for the Ravages of Big Timber
Sarah Anderson
Shrink Wall Street to Guarantee Good Jobs
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail