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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Romney and Obama Might Agree on Trade, But Not Free Trade

Romney and Obama Might Agree on Trade, But Not Free Trade

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Wednesday, 10 October 2012 15:35

Adam Davidson has an interesting piece in the NYT Magazine that highlights the similarities in the economic positions of President Obama and Governor Romney. While many of the points are likely true, some are less clear.

For example, if Governor Romney follows his budget plan, then he will have to dismantle most of the federal government after two terms in office. (Odds are that he won't.) If he follows his campaign pledge he would also have to dismantle the health care plan that President Obama took from him. In this and other cases, whether the candidates are viewed as similar depends on what we think Governor Romney will actually do if he were elected. 

However one area in which the piece clearly errs is in saying:

"both men strongly support expanding free trade."

While both Obama and Romney are likely to push more trade agreements along the lines of NAFTA, it would be inaccurate to call this "free trade." At this point most of the tariffs or quotas that would be viewed as obstacles to free trade have been removed. The issues that fill current trade agreements generally involve rules on investment, environmental and safety restrictions and intellectual property.

These are not traditional free trade issues. In fact, intellectual property is the opposite of free trade since it involves government granted monopolies. This is the reason that some conservative proponents of free trade have objected to the inclusion of intellectual property issues in trade agreements.

It is standard for political figures to wrap all these items into deals that they label as "free trade" agreements because educated people are scared to be opposed to anything that is called "free trade." But this is not Alice in Wonderland, politicians don't get to make words mean whatever they want them to mean.

Obama and Romney both support a pro-business trade agenda. They do not support expanding free trade.

 

 

Comments (3)Add Comment
who benefits from "free trade agreements"?
written by mel in oregon, October 10, 2012 7:04
clearly not we the people. beneficiares are multi-national corporations & their wealthy owners & executives. nafta & other trade agreements are clearly meant to move labor to the cheapest source available. The hypocrisy of romney knows no bounds, as the american people don't have any idea how much capital he has stored in offshore principalities. not that obama wouldn't be doing the same thing if he had romney's wealth. a pox on both candidates, one comment i liked from jfk, "we can do better". we definitely could, but the system is so corrupt, we the people will probably never get the opportunity.
Free Trade Deals are More Like Illegal Drug Trade Deals than True Free Trade
written by Last Mover, October 10, 2012 7:59
It is standard for political figures to wrap all these items into deals that they able as "free trade" agreements because educated people are scared to be opposed to anything that is called "free trade."


Pols also have deep seated fears of coddling criminals, especially illegal drug dealers and their customers who engage in versions of free trade similar to the legal version that is also free of certain rules on investment, environment and safety along with heavy enforcement of intellectual property rights in the form of turf wars.

Given the similarities, MSM should treat legalized free trade the same as illegal drug trade as in:

"Both Obama and Romney strongly support expanding free trade until it becomes as free as the illegal drug trade conducted under the same rules and restrictions applied to investment, environment, safety and intellectual property."

This would snap back the nodding yes heads of sock puppet politicians on free (drug) trade deals so fast they would be passing three-strikes-you're-out laws on anyone who dares support a trade deal that looks like a drug deal.
Free trade?
written by bailey, October 11, 2012 11:08
Free trade? Where? There is NO such thing as "free trade", why do Economists so easily (& cheaply) sell their souls to those who benefit from such myths?

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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