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Subject: When did free trade become so terrible? rss

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Mike Stiles
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As far as I can tell, open trade is encouraged by about all real economic schools, but this last election especially it was treated like it was the devils tool.

Trump was heavily against it, Sanders was heavily against it, and in the one thing Clinton did that I thought was utterly craven, she backed away from it (for presumably rank political reasons).

Do people actually think protectionism works? Somebody help me out here.
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Fair trade is the new mantra.
 
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Free trade is fine, but the benefits to the nations doing the trading need to be distributed to everyone effected, specifically the working class.

Since we can't have increased spending on social programs or increased taxes on the wealthy or wealthy corporations without an explosion of tears from idiot Republicans screaming "buh buh buh CLASS WARFARE buh buh buh" we have to pretend that free trade is stealing all the jobs.
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Protectionism works... for a while, if you are helping an industry that starts uncompetitive but has reasons to think it'll become competitive soon. It looks like launching a start up from the ground, bleeding money for a while until the investment pays off.

The trick is that it has to be temporary and you need a plan to get out and let the industry compete: Without an improvement plan, then what you get is a museum of days past, propped up either by the taxpayer directly, or indirectly by having higher prices, like Canada does with milk.
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windsagio wrote:
As far as I can tell, open trade is encouraged by about all real economic schools, but this last election especially it was treated like it was the devils tool.

Trump was heavily against it, Sanders was heavily against it, and in the one thing Clinton did that I thought was utterly craven, she backed away from it (for presumably rank political reasons).

Do people actually think protectionism works? Somebody help me out here.
Do you believe that the TPP is free trade? Do you actually know anything about it or do you just believe that it is a free trade agreement because the people who are selling it tell you so?

What free trade isn't, is stipulations on how other countries must change their IP laws, or limits to what drugs they can sell to other countries, or maximum amounts of dairy that Canada can sell. Basically the TPP isn't free trade. At all.
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mtagge wrote:
windsagio wrote:
As far as I can tell, open trade is encouraged by about all real economic schools, but this last election especially it was treated like it was the devils tool.

Trump was heavily against it, Sanders was heavily against it, and in the one thing Clinton did that I thought was utterly craven, she backed away from it (for presumably rank political reasons).

Do people actually think protectionism works? Somebody help me out here.
Do you believe that the TPP is free trade? Do you actually know anything about it or do you just believe that it is a free trade agreement because the people who are selling it tell you so?

What free trade isn't, is stipulations on how other countries must change their IP laws, or limits to what drugs they can sell to other countries, or maximum amounts of dairy that Canada can sell. Basically the TPP isn't free trade. At all.


Though I have some misgivings about TPP specifically, the idea of including things like intellectual property protection and dairy quotas is nothing new in trade agreements. The argument for things like IP protection is that laws and regs can constitute non-tariff trade barriers.

On the broader question, it's a bit ironic that now the Republicans (who can no longer disassociate themselves from Trump; hell, he just named the RNC chair as his chief of staff) are being led by somebody skeptical of free trade acts.

It will be interesting to watch this because the Chamber of Commerce (who actually considered endorsing Clinton this cycle, very unusual for them) and the rest of the business wing of the Republican Party will fight Trump on scrapping FTAs like NAFTA.
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Free trade if everyone is on the gold standard or same currency is wonderful. However, we've discovered that countries can devalue their currency to gain trade advantage across all industries and China and Mexico have done this a lot.
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galad2003 wrote:
Free trade is good on all those cool economic graphs you draw in school. Lines shift in the good directions, there is an increase in net trade, net profits go up etc. The problem is all those net benefits might benefit society as a whole but if you are the little guy that line shifting to the right might mean your job goes bye bye. So what do you give a fuck about net positive benefits? your situation went down.

The corporations net profits might go up by a billion dollars but workers wages in the US go down by $100 per worker, say for a net of $500. SO an economist would say, "see free trade is good. We had a net benefit of %00 million!" Yea but that's $500 million that went to some rich assholes and not working class people. Of course these numbers are pulled out of my ass and there are other factors such as cheaper goods, etc so while your wages went down cost of good went down.

The problem with free trade is that most of the free trade agreements are not free. They are highly regulated and often lop sided as to who makes out. Tariffs still exist and cost of goods sold is regulated by WTO in some cases. These regulations are thousands of pages and require and entire organization, The World Trade Organization (WTO), to regulate. Meanwhile, think about it, what regulation exists between states selling goods? Very little. Most items you just hop over to the next state and buy just like you would in any other state.

Trump has said he would renegotiate some of these free trade deals so they are more fair. I look forward to seeing if that will happen. I know many of you will doubt what I say, so I encourage you to go drive through a small town in PA, NC, WI, OH or MI and look at the closed down factories. Think, once those employed people and now they don't. What do those people do now?

There is a lot of information out there about this subject I encourage you all to read up on it. But don't be fooled but the words free trade.
We aren't always on the same page, but you are spot-on here. "good" is very relative in economics. I too hope he negotiates for more fair deals. I can't help thinking he will negotiate for "sweetheart" deals, but at this point I am hoping for the best.
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TheChin! wrote:
galad2003 wrote:
Free trade is good on all those cool economic graphs you draw in school. Lines shift in the good directions, there is an increase in net trade, net profits go up etc. The problem is all those net benefits might benefit society as a whole but if you are the little guy that line shifting to the right might mean your job goes bye bye. So what do you give a fuck about net positive benefits? your situation went down.

The corporations net profits might go up by a billion dollars but workers wages in the US go down by $100 per worker, say for a net of $500. SO an economist would say, "see free trade is good. We had a net benefit of %00 million!" Yea but that's $500 million that went to some rich assholes and not working class people. Of course these numbers are pulled out of my ass and there are other factors such as cheaper goods, etc so while your wages went down cost of good went down.

The problem with free trade is that most of the free trade agreements are not free. They are highly regulated and often lop sided as to who makes out. Tariffs still exist and cost of goods sold is regulated by WTO in some cases. These regulations are thousands of pages and require and entire organization, The World Trade Organization (WTO), to regulate. Meanwhile, think about it, what regulation exists between states selling goods? Very little. Most items you just hop over to the next state and buy just like you would in any other state.

Trump has said he would renegotiate some of these free trade deals so they are more fair. I look forward to seeing if that will happen. I know many of you will doubt what I say, so I encourage you to go drive through a small town in PA, NC, WI, OH or MI and look at the closed down factories. Think, once those employed people and now they don't. What do those people do now?

There is a lot of information out there about this subject I encourage you all to read up on it. But don't be fooled but the words free trade.
We aren't always on the same page, but you are spot-on here. "good" is very relative in economics. I too hope he negotiates for more fair deals. I can't help thinking he will negotiate for "sweetheart" deals, but at this point I am hoping for the best.
From an international perspective, I'm afraid "more fair" will usually mean "worse for the US", as the US was able to leverage it's economic might into trade deals that are favourable to the US.

If by "more fair" you mean a trade deal that will protect jobs at home and keep more money in the pockets of hardworking americans (rather than CEO's and shareholders), trade deals are not the way to do that. Comprehensive social safety, generous (re)education and a progressive tax system are.
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Venga2 wrote:
From an international perspective, I'm afraid "more fair" will usually mean "worse for the US", as the US was able to leverage it's economic might into trade deals that are favourable to the US.

If by "more fair" you mean a trade deal that will protect jobs at home and keep more money in the pockets of hardworking americans (rather than CEO's and shareholders), trade deals are not the way to do that. Comprehensive social safety and generous (re)education is.
My idea of fair trade is ensuring products sold in the U.S. are made using the same regulations and standards as U.S. products so that their cost to produce is closer to ours, that way the market stays competitive. It doesn't bother me if a Chinese person/firm invents a new way to produce something that gives them a cost advantage over their competitors, but if they use low labor and environmental standards to be cost competitive I don't see it as fair. We have to protect our environment and workers, but we shouldn't destroy our economy protecting them because others don't protect their own.
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Free Trade ain't free when other countries support tariffs, VATs, different standards of living, market price fixing, bribery and corruption, currency manipulation, restrictive or prohibitive competition environments, etc.

There is no apples to apples comparison.
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TheChin! wrote:
Venga2 wrote:
From an international perspective, I'm afraid "more fair" will usually mean "worse for the US", as the US was able to leverage it's economic might into trade deals that are favourable to the US.

If by "more fair" you mean a trade deal that will protect jobs at home and keep more money in the pockets of hardworking americans (rather than CEO's and shareholders), trade deals are not the way to do that. Comprehensive social safety and generous (re)education is.
My idea of fair trade is ensuring products sold in the U.S. are made using the same regulations and standards as U.S. products so that their cost to produce is closer to ours, that way the market stays competitive. It doesn't bother me if a Chinese person/firm invents a new way to produce something that gives them a cost advantage over their competitors, but if they use low labor and environmental standards to be cost competitive I don't see it as fair. We have to protect our environment and workers, but we shouldn't destroy our economy protecting them because others don't protect their own.
So really the goal here is to increase the costs of foreign made products rather than an actual desire to protect workers and the environment abroad? Because whether or not that is the true goal, one of the effects of such a policy is that you deny developing nations a (particularly effective) way to develop themselves out of backbraking poverty. Not to mention that, as Bram explains very well in another thread, you actually make the lives of low income American consumers worse by artificially increasing the price of products.
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Venga2 wrote:
TheChin! wrote:
Venga2 wrote:
From an international perspective, I'm afraid "more fair" will usually mean "worse for the US", as the US was able to leverage it's economic might into trade deals that are favourable to the US.

If by "more fair" you mean a trade deal that will protect jobs at home and keep more money in the pockets of hardworking americans (rather than CEO's and shareholders), trade deals are not the way to do that. Comprehensive social safety and generous (re)education is.
My idea of fair trade is ensuring products sold in the U.S. are made using the same regulations and standards as U.S. products so that their cost to produce is closer to ours, that way the market stays competitive. It doesn't bother me if a Chinese person/firm invents a new way to produce something that gives them a cost advantage over their competitors, but if they use low labor and environmental standards to be cost competitive I don't see it as fair. We have to protect our environment and workers, but we shouldn't destroy our economy protecting them because others don't protect their own.
So really the goal here is to increase the costs of foreign made products rather than an actual desire to protect workes and the environment abroad? Because whether or not that is the true goal, one of the effects of such a policy is that you deny devloping nations a (particularly effective) way to develop themselves out of backbraking poverty. Not to mention that, as Bram explains very well in another thread, you actually make the lives of low income American consumers worse by artificially increasing the price of products.


Yeah, I highly recommend people go read Bojan's posts in the other thread.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/24208716#24208716

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/24209364#24209364

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/24210853#24210853

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Everything that happens in economics has winners and losers. Free Trade made a lot of money for many people and boosted material prosperity for many, but the losers were highly paid semi- and unskilled workers who had previously lived behind protectionist barriers.
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Venga2 wrote:
So really the goal here is to increase the costs of foreign made products rather than an actual desire to protect workes and the environment abroad? Because whether or not that is the true goal, one of the effects of such a policy is that you deny devloping nations a (particularly effective) way to develop themselves out of backbraking poverty. Not to mention that, as Bram explains very well in another thread, you actually make the lives of low income American consumers worse by artificially increasing the price of products.
Yes, but the one thing in the production cost equation that is not keeping up with globalization is labor mobility. Product sources can be anywhere, money sources can be anywhere and go anywhere, but job sources are extremely hard to follow as they are blocked by national borders. People complain about the "blue collar" problem in the U.S., but unlike we have been told for decades, you can't move to where the jobs are, but the jobs can move to where the low wages are. It is all very well to place a Walmart every 10 miles across the United States so that the poor can afford things, but it also comes with the job market depression that forces people to only be able to afford things at Walmart. A self-defeating cycle.

My desire is to use the increased costs of foreign made products to put pressure on them to protect their workers and environments. Just like our standard of living became more expensive as we protected ourselves from unscrupulous employers and producers, we can expect it to return to "real costs" while the World standard of living equalizes. It may sound elitist, but should "poor" people in the United States be able to afford a 3D TV, while workers in China can't afford to buy the very things they build for the U.S.? Maybe our prices are too low as it is. I have no problem driving down the prices of food and energy, but manufactured goods may very well be under-priced for the damage they do to undeveloped workers, the environment and yes, the labor market of developed countries.

There is always this implication with the "but we are helping developing countries come out of poverty" argument that suggests that it's OK to "temporarily" mistreat them and destroy their landscapes as they get incrementally richer. I'm not convinced it has to be that way.
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windsagio wrote:
As far as I can tell, open trade is encouraged by about all real economic schools, but this last election especially it was treated like it was the devils tool.

Trump was heavily against it, Sanders was heavily against it, and in the one thing Clinton did that I thought was utterly craven, she backed away from it (for presumably rank political reasons).

Do people actually think protectionism works? Somebody help me out here.


NAFTA and TPP are not free trade. You don't need a thousand page document to say "No tarrifs or import quotas"
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The free market argument is that if countries want to sell products below what they actually cost then just let them since you are getting the products cheaply. That argument is wrong because it does not take into account the long term consequence of allowing subsides and currency manipulation to completely wipe out an industry here in the US.

Basically subsides + currency manipulation allows a country like China, Japan, Korea, etc to drive an industry completely out of business here in the US. Then they achieve economies of scale which makes it impossible for the industry to ever recover in the US even if the subsides are removed or the currency is allowed to return to a fair value. Once they have achieved economies of scale and wipe out the competition, they stop the subsidies and start collecting the profits.

Furthermore, foreign countries are able to pollute the environment, use child labor, and in general treat workers like slaves. Fair trade, rather than free trade, allows a country to impose tariffs or outright ban trade in certain products to prevent mistreatment of workers and the environment from being a competitive advantage. The same methods can be used to prevent currency manipulation and subsides from destroying industries.
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rylfrazier wrote:
Free trade is fine, but the benefits to the nations doing the trading need to be distributed to everyone effected, specifically the working class....


OK, perhaps it's time to take a break, we may be in danger of agreeing. Both Trump and Sanders (but not Clinton) tapped into the anger of people who have lost heavily in the restructuring of the economy. If the DNC hadn't favoured Clinton so blatantly, both behind the scenes as well as with the up front super delegate allocation, they might have had a shot at challenging Trump for those votes.

rylfrazier wrote:
...Since we can't have increased spending on social programs or increased taxes on the wealthy or wealthy corporations without an explosion of tears from idiot Republicans screaming "buh buh buh CLASS WARFARE buh buh buh" we have to pretend that free trade is stealing all the jobs.


Ah, that's better. So why exactly didn't the Obama administration do something to change it during the first two years, when the Democrats had control of everything? I think you're off target when you assume that only Republicans support vested interests. When the economic stuff hit the fan, the Obama administration, with the Democratic dominated congress, bailed out who exactly? Clinton got mega bucks from those same vested interests. There was no way Clinton was going to change it. Why should she? Those giving her the mega bucks were doing quite nicely thank you very much. As for Trump, well, roll the dice. If he's actually going to change anything, he'll probably have to find some sort of coalition of Dems and Repubs, because both parties have plenty who are going to support the status quo.
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ironcates wrote:
Free trade if everyone is on the gold standard or same currency is wonderful. However, we've discovered that countries can devalue their currency to gain trade advantage across all industries and China and Mexico have done this a lot.


Easy way to tell an economic illiterate: he thinks the gold standard works.
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deadkenny wrote:
rylfrazier wrote:
Free trade is fine, but the benefits to the nations doing the trading need to be distributed to everyone effected, specifically the working class....


OK, perhaps it's time to take a break, we may be in danger of agreeing. Both Trump and Sanders (but not Clinton) tapped into the anger of people who have lost heavily in the restructuring of the economy. If the DNC hadn't favoured Clinton so blatantly, both behind the scenes as well as with the up front super delegate allocation, they might have had a shot at challenging Trump for those votes.

rylfrazier wrote:
...Since we can't have increased spending on social programs or increased taxes on the wealthy or wealthy corporations without an explosion of tears from idiot Republicans screaming "buh buh buh CLASS WARFARE buh buh buh" we have to pretend that free trade is stealing all the jobs.


Ah, that's better. So why exactly didn't the Obama administration do something to change it during the first two years, when the Democrats had control of everything? I think you're off target when you assume that only Republicans support vested interests. When the economic stuff hit the fan, the Obama administration, with the Democratic dominated congress, bailed out who exactly? Clinton got mega bucks from those same vested interests. There was no way Clinton was going to change it. Why should she? Those giving her the mega bucks were doing quite nicely thank you very much. As for Trump, well, roll the dice. If he's actually going to change anything, he'll probably have to find some sort of coalition of Dems and Repubs, because both parties have plenty who are going to support the status quo.


You are 100% correct that Obama put all of his "social justice" eggs into the ACA basket and didn't do nearly enough other stuff, like for example:

Federal funding / tax incentives for across the board "daycare" type services to help working families and single parents re enter the workforce.

More progressive taxation to fund said programs and balance the budget.

More funding for trade schools to re educate the displaced workers

Federal jobs programs toward the same goal

instead we got dumb bullshit like the "Cash for Clunkers" program which literally had I believe the lowest ROI of any federal giveaway program in history in terms of $s back into our own economy and a bunch of other bullshit specifically designed to help the US auto industry, which it did, but really is such a tiny fraction of our overall workforce it really wasn't worth all the effort.

So yeah while we might disagree as to whether it would have been good if he did it or not, I think we can agree that Obama did very little for the working poor of any race. I can blame Republican obstructionism for some but not all of that.
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windsagio wrote:

Trump was heavily against it


What was Trump heavily against?
 
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I've been to the chocolate museum in Cologne. It's funded by the chocolate industry, so it's not going to be harsh on them. But it's German, and they're rather keen on fair presentation. So it does have a panel considering the Ivory Coast. The world's largest exporters of cocoa. Now cocoa is a part of the cost of chocolate. But the value added is in making chocolate. So why don't they make and export chocolate? While there is real skill in making chocolate (especially decent chocolate) it's well within their capabilities. Because the EU (and no doubt the US, but as I said, this was in Germany) has low tariffs on cocoa, but high tariffs on chocolate. So that's protection of the EU chocolate industry. Rinse and repeat for many other industries.
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theodorelogan wrote:
windsagio wrote:
As far as I can tell, open trade is encouraged by about all real economic schools, but this last election especially it was treated like it was the devils tool.

Trump was heavily against it, Sanders was heavily against it, and in the one thing Clinton did that I thought was utterly craven, she backed away from it (for presumably rank political reasons).

Do people actually think protectionism works? Somebody help me out here.


NAFTA and TPP are not free trade. You don't need a thousand page document to say "No tarrifs or import quotas"


That sounds appealing, but in the real world there's a hell of a lot more involved than just tariffs and quotas in any meaningful trade deal. Those agreements don't get that long just for shits and giggles; they get that long because the agreements cover a lot of very different goods and services.
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theodorelogan wrote:
windsagio wrote:
As far as I can tell, open trade is encouraged by about all real economic schools, but this last election especially it was treated like it was the devils tool.

Trump was heavily against it, Sanders was heavily against it, and in the one thing Clinton did that I thought was utterly craven, she backed away from it (for presumably rank political reasons).

Do people actually think protectionism works? Somebody help me out here.


NAFTA and TPP are not free trade. You don't need a thousand page document to say "No tarrifs or import quotas"


I don't know, seems like this makes the answer to the question semantics.

Edit: Or possibly Scotsmen.
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wifwendell wrote:
theodorelogan wrote:
windsagio wrote:
As far as I can tell, open trade is encouraged by about all real economic schools, but this last election especially it was treated like it was the devils tool.

Trump was heavily against it, Sanders was heavily against it, and in the one thing Clinton did that I thought was utterly craven, she backed away from it (for presumably rank political reasons).

Do people actually think protectionism works? Somebody help me out here.


NAFTA and TPP are not free trade. You don't need a thousand page document to say "No tarrifs or import quotas"


That sounds appealing, but in the real world there's a hell of a lot more involved than just tariffs and quotas in any meaningful trade deal. Those agreements don't get that long just for shits and giggles; they get that long because the agreements cover a lot of very different goods and services.


They get that long because many different special interests want to carve out special advantages for themselves over their competitors.
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