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July 23, 2007

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.)

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Comments

Ray Tapajna

Free Trade is not trade as presently practiced. Today, Free Trade is about moving production from place to place based on the cheapest labor markets of the world.

It has evolved into outsourcing of labor for the sake of cheaper and cheaper labor. The main commodities are human beings who are put on a world trading block to compete with one another down to the lowest levels of wage slave and even child labor. Even if everyone was provided an education and high teck skills, it would not make a difference if all have to compete for the same jobs.

It is a no win situation and has a long history of failures dating back as far as 1956 when the U.S. Federal Government itself sponsored the moving of factories outside the USA.
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I still don't get everyone's fascination with Ron Paul. The dude might have some halfway decent ideas, but he's old and decrepit if you ask me. Booo...

TheBall

There will always be some amount of protectionism. Even states practice more subtle forms of protectionism, such as by attracting businesses with subsidies and giving college students special offers if they stay in state.

These soft protectionist measures aren't the problem. The problem is things like NAFTA holding entire nations hostage to a host of fixed arrangements which may look "free", "fair", and even reasonably "protective" of the "national interest" at the time, but don't work because they are too inflexible.

NAFTA was a bad idea, and needs to be scrapped. Then we can talk about smaller, evolving trade agreements that actually work and promote trade that is truly free, fair, and does not harm the best interests of any nation that is a party to it.

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