Monday, March 19, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Jim Stanford discusses what can be done to make international terms of trade serve the public, rather than merely offering multinational corporations control over all participants:
 Acknowledging that globalisation produces losers as well as winners, allows us to imagine policies to moderate the downsides of trade – and purposefully share the upsides. The next step is to make a crucial distinction between trade and “free trade”. The former is the pragmatic day-to-day flow of goods and services between countries. The latter is the set of specific, lopsided rules embodied in the plethora of trade and investment agreements enacted over the last generation.

These “free trade” rules often have very little to do with actual trade: describing tariff elimination, for example, usually takes up just a tiny part of the text of each trade deal. The rest is devoted to a raft of provisions securing and protecting the rights of private companies to do business anywhere they want, on predictable and favourable terms.

Proof of the dissonance between trade and “free trade” is provided by Australia’s lacklustre trade performance over the last two decades. Exports of actual goods and services constitute a smaller share of total GDP today, than at the turn of the century. Sure, the volume of resource exports has surged – not surprisingly, since that’s what our trading partners wanted. But resource prices have been shaky, and meanwhile our other value-added exports flagged badly. If the goal of all the free trade agreements signed since then (a dozen) was to boost Australia’s exports, they failed miserably. But of course, that wasn’t the goal: the deals were actually intended to cement a business-friendly policy environment, even in sectors that have nothing to do with international trade.

Progressives can endorse mutually beneficial international trade, and even international flows of direct investment, without accepting the lopsided, business-dominated vision of “free trade” agreements. In fact, a progressive approach to managing globalisation would actually boost real trade more effectively: by supporting purchasing power on all sides, and avoiding the contractionary race-to-the-bottom unleashed by current free trade rules.
- And Tom Parkin comments on the need for Canada to use its own trade negotiations to improve labour standards and job prospects.

- Ryan Tute reports on the UK's parliamentary inquiry into P3 schemes which have resulted in both inflated costs and public services being put at risk.

- Jeff Spross points out how Toys R Us has been stripped bare by vulture capitalists, leaving tens of thousands of workers to pay the price for corporate greed.

- John Nichols writes that U.S. Democrats should follow the example of Conor Lamb's successful run for Congress in proudly and unapologetically advocating for the importance of unions. And Greg Jericho approves of Australian Labor's plan to eliminate boutique tax credits which primarily benefit the wealthy from their existing tax system.

- Finally, Murray Mandryk discusses the importance of apologizing for the Sixties Scoop as just one part of a desperately-needed effort toward reconciliation which will necessarily include challenging the racist attitudes the Saskatchewan Party has regularly fomented. And Kendall Latimer notes that the word "reconciliation" itself may be inaccurate in implying thre's some past state worth restoring.

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