Walden Bello was invited by The Economist to debate the chief economist of the World Trade Organization, Robert Koopman, at the Asia Trade Summit in Hong Kong, on February 28. Billed as the “Great Trade Debate” in an era of rising anti-free trade sentiment, the Oxford-style 20 minute debate took place before an audience made up largely of corporate executives and government delegates. Surprisingly, the author was judged the winner of the debate. Following are his five-minute introductory remarks.
General Smedley Butler’s War is a Racket best explains the true underpinnings of “free trade” in my opinion. I consider it a must read for all progressives.
It’s great to see such a well done attack on current free trade agreements. Developing anything close to fair trade is basically impossible. Power naturally wants more power and money. As Bello said, he is for trade. Trade has lifted huge numbers of people out of severe poverty which is pretty wonderful, yet that alone is really not enough.
FOIA requests made in the USA gave light to documents where the US Military acknowledges the role of the IMF, The WTO, The World Bank and NGo’s as “force multipliers” to be used to destabilize Countries the world over so as to ensure those Countries markets and resources remain under Western Domination.
These agreements help fuel Militarism and Military spending.
Free trade is an oxymoron, at least in any sense that free means in some way unregulated.
Trade is intrinsically based on regulation, starting with the regulations that define property rights and conditions thereon. Ownership is not an intrinsic property, neither of an owner nor of an owned thing; it is instead a relative and usually tacit agreement among some population that some individual or group may determine the use and dispersal of some given resource. object, or commodity.
So if I own a car, it is understood that I have some rights to exclude people from that car or to sleep in the car or to drive that car where I will. It does not mean that I am allowed to run over my neighbor’s children as they walk to school: not only is the ownership regulated, the sum of the regulations constitute ownership.
Much regulation is moot: my neighbor has nice kids. But possibilities of profit in particular make for conflicts: profit is based on externalization; insofar as is possible, the profiting entity retains ownership and disavows costs and damages.
What is called “free trade” in most literature, and what is called “deregulation” is just maintaining all of the regulations that say that the owner can do what he or she or it wishes with the owned thing, and removing all of the regulations that say that he or she or it must do so in certain ways.
Plenty of regulations are nonsense, but regulation also includes all of the understandings that restrict people said to own things from abusing others with said things and said ownership, very much including restricting the liberty of those people.
The restricting of liberty is ever a factor in ownership, which involves restricting people’s use of some resource. “Free trade” therefore does not denote an idea or practice particularly aligned with liberty.