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    Free Trade Free Fall?

    Once considered the bastion of American capitalism, free trade
    is freefalling out of favor among the public and politicians alike.
    Whatever waning leverage the Bush administration is clinging to has
    all but dried up in the Democratic-controlled Congress, many
    members of which won pushing anti-free trade platforms.

    Reporting for Foreign Policy in Focus, Laura Carlsen
    cites a national NBCNews/Wall Street Journal poll from
    March showing that 46 percent of people surveyed believe free trade
    agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
    have hurt the country. Only 28 percent of those surveyed believe
    that they helped.

    Politicians are apparently aware of the public’s skepticism,
    according to Tom Barry, policy director for the
    International Relations Center, a New
    Mexico-based think tank. In a ‘trade backgrounder’ report, Barry
    writes that ‘[b]oth political parties are increasingly wary of
    trade measures that may increase the massive US trade deficit and
    anger voters tired of seeing US jobs lost to overseas
    production.’

    Despite these negative sentiments, the Bush administration is
    still holding fast to free trade logic as it continues to push new
    free trade agreements with Peru, Colombia, Panama, and South Korea,
    all of which are currently sitting on the block in Congress
    awaiting review.

    According to Carlsen, the White House appears to be paying heed
    to the anti-free trade crowd by shifting their rhetoric, but not
    their aims. For example, instead of ‘free trade agreements,’ the
    Peru and Colombia proposals have been dubbed ‘trade promotion
    agreements.’ But, Carlsen notes, the agreements are still based on
    the NAFTA template with the same basic tenets.

    It’s a template that many have criticized for securing US
    corporate interests by dismantling or lowering trade tariffs at a
    great cost to other countries. In fact, in the agreement signed
    with South Korea, the US slipped in two unprecedented clauses that
    bolster US leverage, according to Korean news source
    Hankyoreh. One will ‘fast track’ the
    dispute procedure and another, called ‘snap back,’ will allow
    the United States to reinstate tariffs on Korean autos should
    the Korean government fail to implement certain regulations. The
    Associated Press reports that the
    agreement brought 6,000 workers onto the streets of Seoul to
    protest on April 7.

    Echoing the beliefs of people around the globe, Carlsen calls
    for a moratorium on all free trade agreements. And politicians may
    not be too far behind. Whether Congress can hold off the stubborn
    free trade pursuit however, remains to be seen.

    Go there >>
    Moratorium on Free Trade Agreements

    Go there, too >>
    U.S. Trade Winds No Longer Prevail

    And there >>
    Korean Gov’t Accepts Unprecedented US Demands in
    Trade Deal

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    Published on Apr 1, 2007

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