Free trade deals have failed Canada

Posted on March 29, 2016 in Debates – Opinion/Readers’ Letters – Re: Next U.S. president won’t nix trade pacts, March 19
Mar 28 2016.   Doug Lata

As free trade deals are in the spotlight this U.S. election cycle most of the discussions are vague in details, often serving up false choices or straw men instead of pragmatic insight into the issue. This is common practice among politicians, I’m not surprised. Even Bernie Sanders is kind of vague, or when he is detailed the media cuts to commercial.

But I am very surprised at David Olive with comments like, “And that also has nothing to do with trade deals” in reference to low wages and anti-unionization practices in America. I believe that with free trade deals, employers have gained tremendous leverage over labour with the simple threat of “accept our offer of a low wage or we ship your job overseas.”

Empirical evidence sure leads us to this conclusion. I sure don’t see free trade bringing us tonnes more good paying jobs as was the selling feature a few decades ago. Now new trade deals are just presented as “good for the economy.”

Then after trying to justify current trade practices as good, David Olive suggests the poor economy “has almost everything to do with three decades of bipartisan public policy that has withheld economic fairness from the majority of the U.S. population.” Well please be specific. What exactly are those unfair economic policies? Perhaps labour outsourcing, which free trade enabled. Or union busting, again enabled by the tremendous leverage trade deals granted employers.

If the argument that technology has replaced many of the jobs, why did factories move to cheaper labour markets.

Don’t take me wrong, I agree with free trade. My maple syrup for your grapefruits duty free, no problem. I’m even happy with CCM skates on the retail shelf with Asia-branded and produced skates right beside them, duty free. Now that’s free trade.

Let’s compete for market share and the consumer wins. But anecdotally, CCM skates made in Asia and sold here is not in the implied spirit of free trade.

What we’re experiencing now is vastly advantageous to corporate owners, not at all for workers.

As Donald Trump offers up scenarios of China vs America in trade deals we see one of those false choices. It’s really ownership vs labour; China is just the benefactor. China did not dictate that American companies move to China; the American companies made those choices.

Another sidebar advantage for ownership under free trade is by having local jurisdictions offering up low property taxes and such incentives to attract manufacturing plants. These trade deals are sure looking lopsided.

Doug Lata, Pickering

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