Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Follow The Money

When you see the lobbying for these new free trade agreements, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out who is going to benefit from these deals:
WASHINGTON -- The three major free trade agreements Congress will soon consider are being promoted as a big win for American workers. But take a good look at who's lobbying for them most enthusiastically, and it becomes evident that the biggest winners will be giant multinational corporations -- and the countries on the other end of the deals.

The agreements would knock down any number of barriers and regulations currently limiting the unfettered flow of capital and goods between the U.S. and three countries: Korea, Colombia and Panama.

The agreements would ideally bring greater trade and wealth to all four economies; they would offer U.S. financial services huge new opportunities, while lowering costs for the nation's mega-retailers.

And they could potentially send hundreds of thousands more American jobs overseas.
With so much attention being paid to the debt-ceiling hijinks, the major lobbying effort for the three trade bills has been taking place almost entirely outside public view. But many of the biggest American companies have been engaged in a massive, months-long effort to get the bills passed.

The Panama deal is considered relatively minor, attracting attention mostly because of the country's checkered history as an off-shore tax haven. The deal with Colombia is somewhat bigger and more controversial, particularly because of Colombia's well-documented tolerance of the murder of trade unionists.
But it's the Korea agreement that is literally the big deal. Korea has the 14th-largest economy in the world, and is already the United States' seventh-largest trading partner.

Ground zero for the free-trade lobby is the U.S.-Korea FTA Business Coalition, a group convened by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and led by the top lobbyists for Boeing, Chevron, Pfizer, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. The group's central lobbying argument is that the deal will "create new American jobs and opportunities for economic growth by immediately removing barriers to U.S. goods and services in Korea."

The biggest of the big-business coalitions -- the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, the Financial Services Roundtable, the American Farm Bureau, Big Pharma and the Retail Industry Leadership Association -- are all lobbying hard as well, along with a slew of individual mega-corporations.
It's not surprising, but this is a story that rarely gets any traction in the beltway media, where free trade rivals only tax cuts on rich people as a policy that can be advocated endlessly as both religion and economic panacea without examining the outcomes in the slightest. As Thomas Friedman once said:
We got this free market, and I admit, I was speaking out in Minnesota -- my hometown, in fact -- and guy stood up in the audience, said, ‘Mr. Friedman, is there any free trade agreement you’d oppose?’ I said, ‘No, absolutely not.’ I said, ‘You know what, sir? I wrote a column supporting the CAFTA, the Caribbean Free Trade initiative. I didn’t even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade.
There is nothing that better exemplifies the beltway media's reporting on free trade than that sentence, so major kudos to the Huffington post for their coverage of this issue.

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