Posted by: Shaun | February 26, 2008

AP’s Free Trade Fact Check

What is “free and fair trade?” What are the two Democratic presidential candidates positions on it? The Associated Press has a good overview of the candidate’ current positions on NAFTA compared to their past statements on it. And it reminds us of what “free and fair trade” ultimately is…bullshit. Anyone with even a basic grounding in economics knows this phrase glosses over a number of trade-offs and complexities (don’t worry…I won’t go into the Hecksher-Ohlin model) while allowing a candidate to appear to be Wal-Mart’s best friend and at the same time cozy up to that most endangered of American species, the unionized manufacturing worker.

What will a Democratic trade policy look like in 2008? My hope is that it will steer clear of protectionism, but do more to address the short term displacement of workers and shoot for marginal increases in labor and environmental standards abroad. In my wildest dreams it would involve cutting-off the flow of government largess to agribusiness and allowing foreign crops to compete on an even footing in America. But, given the amount of money that has poured into the campaign even at this early date and the most prominent sources of said financing, my expectations are that it will be a continuation of Clinton-Bush trade policy with lip service paid to working to Americans.

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