Ron Paul: For Free Trade, Against NAFTA
The New York Times Magazine had an interesting piece on Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the former Libertarian Party presidential candidate who is vying for the GOP nomination. It does a pretty good job explaining the challenges facing "big tent" candidacies of any political stripe, as well as Paul's considerable grassroots political skills. Unfortunately, the piece gives relatively short shrift to Paul's work on trade issues:
While he backs free trade in theory, he opposes many of the institutions and arrangements — from the World Trade Organization to Nafta — that promote it in practice.
Actually, Paul's position, unlike that of more opportunistic libertarians, is to oppose WTO and NAFTA precisely because they are not about so-called "free trade... in practice." As Paul said on the floor during the CAFTA debate:
If we were interested in free trade, as the pretense is, you could initiate free trade in one small paragraph. This bill is over 1,000 pages, and it is merely a pretext for free trade. At the same time we talk about free trade, we badger China, and that is not free trade. I believe in free trade, but this is not free trade. This is regulated, managed trade for the benefit of special interests. That is why I oppose it.
In fact, I think it goes further. NAFTA-style trade agreements are a little bit of free trade for select special interests (i.e. agriculture exporting companies, etc.), and a little bit of protectionism for select special interests (i.e. Big Pharma and financial service industries, etc.), used as the delivery mechanism to lock in a sweeping corporate rights agenda. They could have done it with candy, but instead they chose "trade," which is why groups all across the country with a variety of views on the desirability of "free trade" realize that NAFTA-style trade agreements are not about that, and indeed about much more.
And, in case you weren't sure, Paul is the only GOP candidate (and only one of two in the entire two-party field) to have an 100% fair trade voting record. (Except for missing a vote on the Morocco FTA.)