Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Opinion: Free Trade

The fall of the Soviet Union in the late 21st Century left the world with only one superpower, the United States, who adamantly pressured the rest of the world for free trade. The United States has become the hegemon of the world militarily and economically. Free trade has since proliferated from the United States lead hegemony's pressure and the creation of supranational organization such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and, the World Trade Organization. These policies work upon an assumption that free trade raises the world standards, and that it is necessary. In reality free trade lowers world standards, creates a larger gap between rich and poor and, harms the environment.

Globalization has allowed for trade at record speeds with products being transported around the world where they weren't able to before. Transnational corporations have become the leading benefiter of this type of trade and in particular free trade. Most of these transnational corporations however, are based in the North. They use a new form of global exploitation by going to countries in the South with the lowest wages and usually minimal political rights as well. China has become a major market for cheap labour even though, the citizens have little rights and, work in poor labour conditions. As seen in Columbia with Coca Cola where workers who were trying to unionise were assassinated (Harris & Lapin, 2005). This type of use of labour instead of raising the bar, as free trade proponents claim, lowers the bar by workers having to work for lower wages with low or non-existent benefits if they wish for the transnational corporations to set up shop in these countries. Workers in Northern countries however, loose their jobs as the companies go around the world looking for the lowest wages. This loss of jobs and the reduction of wages contributes to the growing gap between rich and poor.

Ever since humans started moving away from communal hunter-gatherer societies and into settlements there has been a certain amount of disparity between people. Inequality was high at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution however, it eventually became more equal as workers unionised and wages grew. In the post-industrial world inequality has been rising within countries, but even more so between countries. Free trade becomes one of the major causes of this as policies of privatization are enforced, despite the negative consequences on other countries from the variability of the market. Developing countries in the South are also pressured into becoming individual resource dependant. The term banana republic is an example of this, as certain countries in Latin America are pressured into focusing on fruit mainly for export to the North. However, if the market crashes on that product so does the economy of those countries who major in their production. Even still in the boom cycles of those products little goes to the actual farmers and instead goes to the transnational corporations and business elites that control their products from privatization. Thus the South becomes a resource and cheap labour market for the North and the gap between rich and poor grows.

Although there are many externalities placed upon workers with low wages, bad work conditions and, union busting one of the major externalities is the environment. Genetically modified food, chemicals and, pollution are pushed on governments and people throughout the world due to free trade. The repercussions of genetically modified foods at the moment is not known, yet they are being pushed on markets around the world, as an example, the World Trade Organization has even said that the banning of genetically modified foods in Europe was illegal. Chemicals can destroy land, lead to desertification or can get into water supplies and kill marine life and possibly humans as well. One example of forced products is MMT a deadly toxic fuel additive which was forced on Canada, by an American company through the use of the North American Free Trade Agreement. These transnational corporations which enter free trade can serious affect water supplies as well, an example of this was Coca-Cola in Plachimada India which made the water level fall from 150 ft below sea level to 500 ft below (Shiva, 2005: 168).These policies of forcing products on countries despite the affect on the environment is quite detrimental.

The lowering of labour standards, the growing disparity between rich and poor in the North and South and, the degradation of the environment due to free trade being a vessel for transnational corporations does not make the world better. Instead a new type of exploitation has been created under the name of something that is free. The free trade policies that are petitioned by these transnational corporations and supranational organizations should be looked at very carefully, so they do not erode the rights of countries and the citizens within those countries. There needs to be a clause to protect workers and the environment if there is to be any trade which brings society up.

Written a while ago, but due to being busy I found it fitting at this time. Important activist updates about Ottawa events will be coming soon.

Labels: , , , ,

8 Comments:

Blogger sappho said...

Really great post about 'Free Trade', Jade! Best I've seen in a while.

12:31 AM  
Blogger Jade said...

It was for one of my international politics classes winter semester. Sadly you'd be disillusioned by the lack of political thought and individuality in that class or in the program in general. Oh well I did get a A- in that class being one of the few actually interested in politics.

12:37 AM  
Blogger betmo said...

no i wouldn't. we are so screwed. we as americans, canadians, the world- are so screwed. the corporations and corporate greedies are in control and they don't believe in people- especially non-whites and they don't believe in environmentalism. thanks for an excellent post. i am linking.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Herbinator said...

A nice post. A little wordy.

As "there needs to be a clause" for th eprotection of people I was a little disappointed you didn't venture one.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Jade said...

Thanks. It was a short university paper so its wordy for a reason.

A specific clause I would have to leave up to lawyers I'd say. Specific writing of policy is not something this 19 year old works on yet.

10:47 AM  
Blogger DJN said...

That's great stuff, Jade.

Have you heard about the anti-free trade protests in Korea the other day? is a report that includes some awesome photos of the protest of more than 60,000. The protests are about exactly what you wrote about.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Jade said...

No I haven't. Synchronicity I guess, do you have a link about it?

2:49 PM  
Blogger DJN said...

ack. the link i made didn't work. Maybe this will work.

7:21 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home