There has been much  debate and discussion over Walmart, even amidst our own little blog. In considering the scales of justice and debate, one factors seems overlooked more often than any other and that is role played by the trade agreements like NAFTA and the extension of permanent normal trading status to China along with its inclusion in the WTO, all signed during the Clinton Administration. Since then the US has enacted so many trade agreements that the acronyms begin to look more like a game of Boggle. While many of Walmart’s practices such as sweatshops and pressuring business partners to outsource, makes them easy targets for criticism some statement has to be made about the the role trade agreements have played in the over all dynamics. In general; if it wasn’t flawed by design Walmart would not be allowed to encorporate such exploitative and despicable practices.  Free trade, could have meant fair trade.

In the early 1990’s consumer groups and environmentalist warned of the potential adverse effects these trade agreements could have on the American jobs as well as the American standard of living. In short; if the trade agreements were enacted without setting standards for the environment, working conditions in foreign countries and human rights, Americans stood to loose more than jobs. Over time the American standard of living would have to equalize with that of the other participating countries.

Consumers groups weren’t preaching isolationism, they were merely pointing out that the trade agreements should estabished a baseline standard for business conduct in order to be included as a participant. Free trade would mean fair trade and it would have been in best interest of people… and the environment.  Thus, establishing a system that discourages the sweatshop culture rather than one that fosters its growth and development. The reality of this situation is this,  the standards we allow to be set for our trade participants-will ultimately determine how good or how poor our own standards will be.

Another less evident change ushered in by the succession of trade agreements is this; for the first time in history American businesses forged a unprescidented alliances with the American government. A pseudo partnering that would enable America to market its goods to world.  The question no one really seemed to consider was how this alliance would effect consumer protections within US government agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Today, the consequences seem to obvious to overlook. In quick succession we saw tainted dog food, tainted tooth paste and lead paint on imported children’s toys. Keep in mind that some of these infraction were discovered despite the fact that only a minuscule percentage of the goods imported to the US are ever inspected.

While this article only serves to touch upon a few issues, take the time to review the list of promises made by NAFTA’s corporate proponents prompting its Congressional approval in 1993 and opening the door to the implementation of a gamut of others. 

200,000 new NAFTA jobs in the first 2 years, higher wages, increasing middle class consumer demand in Mexico, an increasing U.S. trade surplus with Mexico, greater economic and social stability in Mexico, improved environmental and health conditions in the U.S.-Mexico border region, thorough border inspection, as trade volumes increased, inhibiting shipments of unsafe food or contraband such as illegal drugs, and better relations with Mexico on issues from immigration to promotion of democratic elections.

While assembling information to include in this blog ran across Hillary’s trade position as told to a Bloomberg reporter:

“We just can’t keep doing what we did in the twentieth century,” she said stating that the US may need “a little time-out” before the enactment of any further trade deals.  She has even reportedly, questioned the wisdom of NAFTA–while stopping short of blaming Bill.  Hmmm…like minds in unexpected places.

On a brighter note,  President Bush’s grant of Fast Track authority– expired June 30, 2007…that’s a load off.

Financial Times: Clinton vows to revisit trade deals

Click here: to watch interview with Walmart factory worker in China

Click here: to read more about Walmart outsourcing to China

Eyes on Trade Blog

Dems Cut Trade Deal with Bush; Poised to Throw American Workers Under Bus

Parading as a Chinese Fighting Fish,

容忍 鱒(魚), 鮭魚