FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Free Trade Should Benefit the People Not Corporations

There is a lot of angst in the US corporate world. They are quite concerned that the renegotiation talks between the US, Canada and Mexico (the three participants in the North American Free Trade Agreement –NAFTA) may not deliver a new agreement that is as lucrative as the old NAFTA.

NAFTA has been in place since 1994. It is a classic neoliberal trade agreement as described by essayist George Scialabba: “investor rights agreements masquerading as ‘free trade’ and constraining the rights of governments to protect their own workers, environments, and currencies.” As such, it has served corporate interests well.

US corporations counted on NAFTA and other trade agreements to keep wages low by the threat of, or actual movement of manufacturing jobs to wherever it was easiest to exploit workers and the environment.

A re-negotiated NAFTA, would, if U.S. negotiating positions were accepted, force Canada to scrap the price protections that give their dairy farmers a fair price for their milk. In Mexico, US corporate interests would hope to prevent Andrés Manuel López Obrador, if elected president, from trying to bring Mexican farmers out of poverty. Obrador calls for expanding the country’s dairy industry and rebuilding its native corn production. (American agri-business destroyed Mexican family farm corn production by dumping cheaper corn on the Mexican market—hence the spike in illegal emigration to the U.S. after NAFTA went into force.)

Protectionist policies on the part of Canada and Mexico? Yes, but what is the function of government if not to protect its citizens? Trump says “America first” but it goes both ways. Presumably, our government was not founded with the intent of protecting corporate interests. In fact, as Thomas Jefferson noted, “The end of our democracy— will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations”.

Looks like we’re there.

If farmers, union members and small businesses were the intended beneficiaries of free trade agreements we should all be doing quite well financially. Dairy farmers should be getting a fair price for their milk, workers should be earning a living wage and small businesses should be lining the main streets of America again–but we know that is not the case.

Multinational corporations, the real beneficiaries of free trade agreements, write the rules, stash their profits in off-shore tax havens, all while they cleverly tout the agreements as being in the best interests of the farmer and wage earner.

As a dairy farmer I am told trade agreements have and will continue to help me “compete globally”. Through NAFTA we can increase our sales of dairy products to Mexico and crack Canada’s protection of their farmers milk price. Notice they do not say this will increase our profitability, only our sales— so why should I want to produce more, sell more, when there is no profit? It only means farmers will need to work harder to make the same or less at the expense of Canadian and Mexican farmers.

Of course, that is not the concern of the “dairy industry”. Their profit is insured by the willingness of farmers to produce more and never question why they cannot get a fair price. If dumping our cheap corn on Mexico or putting Canadian dairy farmers out of business is the price of increasing corporate profit– so be it.

President Trump promised to make NAFTA better or pull out. What he and his administration would define as better is a very loaded question. I have seen little in the past year to indicate the administration wants to do anything to raise farm prices, wages, or curb the influence of corporate interests on government. Just look at the new tax bill–let the good times roll for the rich and corporations!

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Voss is wrong when he says “NAFTA has worked for Wisconsin. It’s not the time to put new obstacles in place that would hurt the very markets that our business owners and farmers depend on.” If NAFTA has worked why are farmers being told to expect continued low prices in 2018?

So, rather than more of the empty populist rhetoric that fueled his campaign and election, the President, for once, actually needs to follow through on a promise: NAFTA should be replaced not re-negotiated.

As Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch noted, “Trump launched the promised NAFTA renegotiation in August, but U.S. corporate interests have persuaded Canada and Mexico to not engage on U.S. proposals to transform NAFTA in ways that U.S. unions, small businesses and consumer groups have long argued would slow job outsourcing and downward pressure on U.S. wages”.

Anyone who supports the continuation of NAFTA without questioning who actually benefits really has no concern for the best interests of farmers or workers in the US, Canada or Mexico.

More articles by:

Jim Goodman is a dairy farmer from Wonewoc, Wisconsin.

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail