The Dubai Ports Deal, Free Trade, and 2008

David Sirota uses a story in the Wall Street Journal as a jumping-off point for a really interesting look at the 2008 Democratic contenders and their positions on free trade, or as he puts it, "free" trade. Since the Journal article is subscription-only, he quotes from it liberally, and shows that it gives a mixed review at best to global trade policies of the last few years. The Journal also makes the case that the public outcry against the Dubai Ports World deal shows that the American people are also not quite sold on free trade ideology, and are increasingly willing to say so. It doesn't take a anti-capitalist radical to hold the opinion that maybe selling off all of our vital national infrastructure is not the best idea.

Sirota sees in this rejection of unfettered free trade ideology some serious implications for the 2008 Democratic primaries and I tend to agree with him. The relentless corporate sucking from Bush is one of the factors that people are likely to be fed up with by the closing months of his term in office. Economic populism has been growing in popularity in Democratic campaigns for some time now, and eight years of Bush's fealty to corporate power and wealth isn't going to have diminished it.

With this in mind, he sized up a handful of likely Democratic candidates, ranking them into four tiers on trade. He places New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Senator Evan Bayh in the first category, calling them "ardent 'free' traders, many of them personally responsible for the trade policies that are destroying America's middle class." Into the second category go the softer free traders, who have supported quite a few trade agreements, but bucked the trend and rejected others. The candidates he lists are Senators Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, along with Virginia Governor Mark Warner. He only lists one candidate in each of the next two categories, and if frustration with free trade agreements do indeed become a main issue in 2008, they have the most to gain from it.

The third category is candidates with mixed voting records on trade, but who have displayed a genuine interest in rejecting the free-trade-at-all-cost dogma. The only candidate in this category is John Edwards, who voted against some of the corporate-written trade deals that came down the pike during his Senate term, and who has made a class-based "Two America's" message his signature theme.

And the final category is candidates who have loudly opposed all of the sell-out trade deals, even when that opposition has been politically unpopular. Again, this is a one-candidate category right now, and that candidate is Russ Feingold - a guy who has not only voted against selling out America, but has made the issue central to his public image by airing campaign ads about his courageous stands on the issue.

Personally, I find a candidate who's experienced something a conversion on trade to be the most attractive and credible. That mirrors the experience of many people and shows that the candidate learns from experience. But that's realy just nitpicking. If there's one thing we'd definitely both agree on as it relates to this issue, it's that candidates like Richardson and Bayh will have real trouble explaining their unflinching support for "free" trade deals (now he's got me doing it) to Democratic primary voters who feel disenfranchised and disempowered by such policies.

Tags: 2008, Democrats, General 2008 (all tags)



Re: The Dubai Ports Deal, Free Trade, and 2008

I think Sirota is one of the best bloggers out there in as much as our political views are two peas in a pod.  No Warner, no Clintons or other "free trade" Republican lights for me or Sirota.  I read him every single day.

by oakland 2006-03-13 06:18AM | 0 recs
Re: The Dubai Ports Deal, Free Trade, and 2008

Personally, I find a candidate who's experienced something a conversion on trade to be the most attractive and credible. That mirrors the experience of many people and shows that the candidate learns from experience.

I am not sure I agree.  The people I think it mirrors are maybe some of the chattering classes.  But, do you think the average American is  or was ever really gung-ho free trade?  I don't.

I agree Edwards has potential.  But, being right in the first place, and voting right in the first place seems like a pretty good story to me.

by DanielUA 2006-03-13 06:39AM | 0 recs
Re: The Dubai Ports Deal, Free Trade, and 2008

Yeah, but I am not saying Edwards is not good, or that his populist message doesn't have a lot of potential.  Just that being right in the first place is probably the best.

by DanielUA 2006-03-13 06:51AM | 0 recs
Re: The Dubai Ports Deal, Free Trade, and 2008

And, I guess my overall point is that the average American never was so gung-ho free trade to begin with.  At best, they were indifferent.

by DanielUA 2006-03-13 06:52AM | 0 recs
Re: The Dubai Ports Deal, Free Trade, and 2008

Personally, I find a candidate who's experienced something a conversion on trade to be the most attractive and credible.

Really? And do you find opponents of the Iraq War who underwent a "conversion" to be more credible, too?

Why don't we give some credit to the people who had the right insight first? Why do we have to give brownie points for stupidity?

by tgeraghty 2006-03-13 06:56AM | 0 recs
Re: The Dubai Ports Deal, Free Trade, and 2008

Sort of like the born agains.  If they hadn't of screwed it up so badly the first time, they wouldn't need a second chance.   Once born again, they're better than you cause they "know".   Feingold's my man.

by oakland 2006-03-13 07:21AM | 0 recs
Free Trade Only Part of the Problem

I think free trade has become the a simplistic boogyman for all that ills our economy.  I have heard labor blame free trade for all that ails the union movement for years and while it is a problem, it is not the sole one.  

Many manufacturing jobs have dissappeared because of computerization and robotics.  Car making has become much less labor intensive because of these things.  Sure manufactuers have moved stuff offshore but they have also eliminated jobs because better technology has come along.  This is as old as time and the only solution is to create continuous job training for people as Robert Reich suggested when he was Labor Secy.

Additionally, labor is poorly run as Andy Stern, head of SEIU, has pointed out time and again.  Labor has too many small feifdoms that are not adapting to the realty of today's economy.  Labor needs to merge the small unions with the big ones to enhance their clout.  Look at the face of organized labor - it is mainly old white men when most unions are dominated by women and minorities.  Labor spends more money on political activity than organizing.  I suppose that is good for Dems but I'd rather see them organize and create membership and clout in that manner.

For better or worse, we have moved away from a manufacturing economy in the past 20 years and we are not likely to go back.  Labor operates like it is in the 1960s and 70s in a 21st Century economy.  

I believe we need a strong labor movement but I have seen labor up close and found it wanting.  Frankly, they need to look in the mirror and fix their own house.  If labor wants to become relavent again, it needs to figure out how to organize the service sector.  The only major labor leader who seems to have figured this out is Andy Stern and he left the AFL-CIO because of his frustration with their unwillingness to change.

by John Mills 2006-03-13 07:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Free Trade Only Part of the Problem

Let's see.  Mexico was boom, now its bust.  Everyone went to China.  Now Viet Nam is in line to come on, and company's are going there.  When you say mfg, just what do you mean?  Do you include all the IT, engineers, admin., managers, accounts, and others that also work in the company or are you just talking plant?  Apparently, since you just have to take on the unions.  

by oakland 2006-03-13 07:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Free Trade Only Part of the Problem

You have some excellent points.  Technology is hitting a lot of manufacturing jobs very hard.  That doesn't automatically mean less jobs, it just means that the jobs out there require different forms of training.  

I also think that the establishment, both Democrats and Republicans, have fooled themselves into believing that NAFTA, WTO, CAFTA, and the like are "free" trade.  Page after page of trade regulations aren't free.  Free trade is good for the economy, international treaties written by corporations are not!

by LoganFerree 2006-03-13 08:58AM | 0 recs
Re: The Dubai Ports Deal, Free Trade, and 2008

It is too simplistic to blame free trade for everything that is wrong.  Unfortunately, manufacturing (ie cars, TVs, home appliances, etc) is generally done where it is cheapest. That was once the US, Japan, Germany, etc. Japan is outsourcing to other Asian countries.  Germany now has plants in Eastern Europe.  Why?  Because labor is cheaper.  It is not right but we are not the only country experiencing this problem.

Am I an ardent free trader?  No but I get really sick of simplistic answers to complicated problems.

One of the reasons foreign companies are buying US companies is we don't enough capital here to do it because of our piss poor savings rate and huge federal deficits.  Free trade has nothing to do with those facts.

We have lost huge shares of the auto market because Detroit continues to run itself like it was the 1960s.  They build boring cars and never seem to be able to see into the future the way Toyota and Honda can.  Lastest Example - hybrid cars which we are once again getting our brains beaten in on.  

The Repubs have made life hard for unions but, with the exception of a few, they have not adapted in any meaningful way.  I am all for trying to save dwindling manufacturing jobs but they also need to be organizing the growing number of benefitless service sector workers.  

by John Mills 2006-03-13 07:38AM | 0 recs
Re: The Dubai Ports Deal, Free Trade, and 2008

One other problem having nothing to do with free trade - high US health care costs are driving manufacturing to both Mexico and Canada.

by John Mills 2006-03-13 07:40AM | 0 recs
David Sirota gets paid to make shit up


I'm calling bull$hit. You're calling Evan Bayh an ardent free trader. You even go so far to say that Bayh has demonstrated "unflinching support for "free" trade deals."

So, let me get this straight. You're claiming that Evan Bayh, whose state has more manufacturing jobs than any other state in the union, has a worse record on trade than:

  • Hillary Clinton, wife of NAFTA's #1 advocate
  • Mark Warner, megamillionare corporate executive who has been supportive of H1B visas
  • John Kerry, who has voted for every major trade agreement in the last 15 years including NAFTA and PNTR

You do realize that Bayh has:

  • been a strong proponent of steel tariffs
  • held up the nomination of Rep. Rob Portman for USTR over fair trade concerns
  • is one of a handful of Senators to support taking action against China for its violation of international trade rules
  • voted against CAFTA

This is Evan Bayh's stance on trade:

Let me start with trade. And let me be very clear. I believe in competition. I believe in free and fair markets. But that is not what we have today. Other countries are practicing predatory trade practices targeting our industries and targeting our jobs and all too often our government is missing in action, and you have a right to expect more from us than that. The global economy is not going to work very well if when they have a competitive advantage, we buy from them, but when we have a competitive advantage, they cheat or steal from us. It's not going to work very well. The cheating has got to stop.

I think about the fact that, you know, they steal our entertainment, our movies. They steal our pharmaceuticals. Fifty to ninety percent of the business software is pirated. There are reports out of Detroit that that they even copied an entire motor vehicle from Chevy. The owner called it "the Chinese Chery," I think its called. "The Chinese Chery." Well, you know what, if those allegations are proven to be true, as far as I'm concerned, those Cherys can sit on the dock and rust, before they get into the United States.

How can we, in good conscience, sit back and do nothing when we know that every day before your members get up and go to work, they start off 25-30 percent behind? Not because you don't work as hard, not because you're not as smart, not because our products aren't as good, but because we allow the Chinese to manipulate the value of their money. That's not right. Now, I'm not a big believer in tariffs or that kind of thing, but let me tell you this, until they get right in the currency issue, we ought to slap a countervailing tariff on all the products coming out of China to level out the playing field.

You know, reading that, I don't know why Bayh doesn't just run out and become a member of the CATO institute. /snark

Look, I'm not saying that Bayh hasn't supported trade agreements in the past - he voted for and defends his vote on China PNTR and a number of other trade agreements that were based more in good diplomacy than in economic sense. But he's been one of the few in the Senate to speak powerfully to the truth of the emerging failure of many of these trade regimes. How you can act as if Bayh is some unique example of free trade advocacy is misleading and irresponsible at best.

Okay, you've set your own standard. You need to distinctly prove that Bayh or Richardson are distinctly worse on trade issues than the others. Otherwise, it's just another example of a clear and distinct Bayh/moderate-hating agenda that you keep promoting.  

by blueflorida 2006-03-13 08:59AM | 0 recs
Re: The Dubai Ports Deal, Free Trade, and 2008

Actually, I believe Evan Bayh voted against CAFTA, and he's been making noise about China lately. So, yes, he was a doctrinaire free trader not long ago, but that seems to be changing.

by jason1965 2006-03-13 12:26PM | 0 recs


Advertise Blogads