Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Not About Free Trade

Most "free traders" like Tom "no idea what's in the Free Trade agreement" Friedman just hear "free trade" and assume it's good (Friedman actually said this). And NPR etc... dutifully report everything as "free trade" as if it's of course the good and sensible thing and who doesn't like freedom, commie? But US tariffs on most things are tiny and so for a long time these agreements have had little to do with textbook free trade. They are what their critics have always said they are - ways for multinationals to get a veto over democracy.
Not deliberately of course, but the NYT had this great piece on how the junk food industry is trying to limit required warnings on junk food as part a renegotiated NAFTA. The issue is that our trading partners are looking to take measures to discourage people from eating foods that are high in sugar, fat, and salt. Several cities and states are considering similar measures. The junk food industry is looking to block such measures by getting a ban included in the new NAFTA.

If you're wondering what this has to do with free trade, the answer is nothing. However, it is a beautiful example of an industry working to use a trade agreement to subvert the democratic process to advance its interests in a trade deal. If the junk food industry gets its way, the resulting pact will then be blessed as a "free trade" deal. The Washington Post and all the other beacons of the establishment will the proclaim their support for the new NAFTA and denounce opponents as Neanderthal protectionists.