Trade Agreements

The mariner is in a mood today. He appreciates that you choose to abide. The cause of his mood is the condition of the common person on the street of any country in the world – including the United States. Looking across the continents, looking at the circumstance of a public citizen in 194 countries, that public citizen is in bondage. With the exception of a few Nordic countries, the public citizen gets the scraps of government and commerce, the crumbs, if any, that governments and corporations leave only because it is convenient to do so.

The mariner speaks from experience. The value of his land holdings was cut by a third in 2008. The third that disappeared showed up in million dollar bonuses at investment banks. However, the mariner is fortunate in his diversification; many were not – especially those whose total asset was their home. One does not willingly choose foreclosure. One does not easily uproot the family to sell a home to avoid a debt that will last a lifetime. It is egregious that the banks holding the mortgages made record, if not obscene, profits on the public citizen’s hardship.

The mariner grows wary of corporate greed. Under the guise of fair trade agreements, corporations have avoided national law and regulation in virtually every country. Multinational corporations are pirates roaming the seas between nations to avoid accountability for human rights, human dignity, and a fair distribution of profit. Year by year the profits grow larger and flow to the top faster.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed under the guise of a new continental achievement in international cooperation. Corporations wrote most of the details. As many States and communities experienced, shortly after the agreement was ratified Iowa lost Maytag jobs to Mexico. Most corporations that absconded relocated just across the Mexican border. American truck drivers lost jobs because Mexican trucking companies were permitted to cross the border to deliver goods and avoid dealing with trucker unions or vehicle maintenance and road regulations. A total wrap up of overhead for the relocated corporations: lower wages, no unions, lower distribution costs and higher, undistributed profits – not mentioning less US tax.

There are many international trade agreements ratified by the US Government that never receive scrutiny or see the light of day. Virtually all trade agreements favor the foreign country, especially Japan, China and South Korea. The net loss in these agreements is a loss paid for by the US taxpayer. Further, corporate agreements with other countries give away large quantities of American jobs in exchange for larger contracts – think General Motors and General Electric among many.

Recently, China wanted to buy one hundred 736 jetliners from Boeing but to get the contract, Boeing had to agree to move part of the manufacturing to China – along with the patented technology that was needed. China ignores patent rights. Now, China has ordered another one hundred jetliners and wants to double the amount of manufacturing in China – again with added technology to do the job. The Seattle area has lost thousands of jobs under these agreements. Corporations are giving away America’s advantage in the world – superior technology – thus weakening the international role of the US.

Today, the largest trade agreement ever imagined is under negotiation by the Pacific Rim countries – including the United States. This trade agreement is called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Its development is under the control of corporate negotiators overseen by member governments. Not only is it the largest trade agreement ever assembled, it is the most abusive. TPP allows member nations to locate in any other member nation and ignore that nation’s national and local law and regulation if these laws interfere with profit margins. For members that refuse this liberty, the member nation can be sued. TPP members can ignore human rights legislation, wage and health requirements and any other impediment to maximized profit, which, of course, is undistributed. Further, the multinational nature of the agreement virtually eliminates taxes and tariffs.

The more the mariner studies commerce, the more he realizes that nations are no longer the primary players of the future. The big players are multinational corporations – corporations for which there is no national boundary and no regard for fairness and human dignity.

The mariner is reading the biography of Woodrow Wilson. Wilson’s dream was a global government that would see to the rights and dignity of all people. As the mariner reads about Wilson, he compares that dream to the reality of the 21st century. The United Nations, a global organization modeled after Wilson’s dream, is hogtied, generally disregarded, and executes only a tiny fraction of its charter. The UN certainly is not in a position to compete with multinational corporations who are on their way to writing the charter for world peace, AKA profit.

This realization is what has the mariner in a funk.

Ancient Mariner

Leave a Reply