Protestors's motivations

I must admit that I was a little puzzled by the protests in Quebec City over the weekend. I thought why would anyone take time to travel all the way to Quebec and spent days there protesting to ensure that Latin America stays poor. I mean sure protesting is fun, but so is Ultimate Frisbee and online Age of Empires games, and you don’t run the slim risk of keeping millions of people impoverished. These protestors must be alwfully selfish I thought. However, I don’t want to be judgemental so I decided to try to empathize with the protestors and try to understand their motivations. Since the protestors were a diverse bunch I will try to relate the motives of each group in an effort to promote understanding and so maybe people won’t be as harsh in judging them.
Organized Labor- Sure poor Latin American peasants need jobs to feed and clothe their families, but some of those jobs might come from Americans who belong to unions. And if those Americans lose their jobs they have to look for new jobs. Looking for a job sucks, there are interviews and want ads and financial strains between jobs, an all around nasty business. Sure these jobs would eventually be lost anyway but free trade accelerates this process.

Students- The problem with being is student is lots of time and little money. So consequently you get bored, and you drink and you drink and you drink some more. After a while this gets boring too. So a hip thing to do is to protest. You get to hang out with a lot of other kids your age, many of the opposing gender. You might even get on TV since reporters like to interview protestors as if they had serious ideas and knew what they were talking about. Sure screwing Latin Americans out of a chance to escape poverty may sound cold, but if they understood economics and all those numbers, they wouldn’t be liberal arts majors would they.

Enviromentalists- Poor people are better for the planet than rich ones. How many poor people do you see driving SUVs and living in big houses. Poor people walk most places and live in small shacks which you don’t have to cut down as many trees to build. If they don’t cut down as many trees, the cute and fuzzy animals who live in the forest won’t be disturbed. Also they don’t have access to health care and die earlier, thus decreasing the likelihood of overpopulation. So to an enviromentalist kepping people poor is a good thing.

Socialists/Anarchists- Causing trouble is what they do. If you are not protesting what good is it being an anarchist or a socialist. You might as well be a democrat or a republican and then you have to think up ideas that might actually work or have a chance or being implemented, and that is too much like work. And besides amoung certain groups, being a protestor is like being a musician. Easy access to easy women who will think you are something special.

So protesting and rioting to keep Latin America poor may seem like a strange thing to do, don’t judge them too harshly. Hundreds of millions of people mired in poverty may seem like a high price to pay for the protestors to achieve their goals, but those are the breaks Pedro.

First off, I am NOT a protestor. I studied environmental science and economics in school to get as complete a picture of environmental issues as possible. So whereas I think a large number of protestors (I had a great deal of contact with the same general class of protestors when they were here in DC) are relatively clueless, there is some validity to a few subsections of their arguments.

With obvious exceptions (there’s one in every crowd) most environmentalists are not out there hoping to impoverish the first world. Sure, there is the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe that proffers that as a goal, but to paint environmental concerns with that brush is ludicrous.

Let’s oversimplify for brevities sake. International trade agreements generally prohibit or lower unreasonable blocks to trade. This is generally considered to be a Good Thing. However, if environmental concerns are not incorporated into the framework of said agreement, than when a sovereign nation moves to protect the environment from perceived harms this will be considered an unreasonable block to trade.

For example. The United States likes Cute Baby Turtles. Shrimp boats without special nets kill Baby Turtles and threaten their existence. The US passes a law that restricts the importation of the Turtle-Killing shrimp. It does this as a sovereign nation, responding to the will of the people. It does this to protect a species. The US gets a gold star. However, the US signed a trade agreement with the Shrimp fishermen. It said it would not unfairly limit competition amongst shrimp-fishing nations. The agreement made specific provisions for what is and is not allowed, and since Cute Baby Turtles were not on the list, an international arbitrator struck down the US law (annoying a bunch of Montana Militiamen to no end).

So, think the environmental protestors are nuts? Where then do you see allowances for environmental legislation being incorporated into the agreements?

Think the big bad governments (those nasty democratically elected governments) are unconcerned about the health of the Thnead forest? Propose a bit of legislation yourself. As just about everything has environmental consequences, how do you allow for environmental legislation without opening a potential loophole that could marginalize the effects of the treaty?

Nothing is ever easy.

I didn’t mean to imply that all enviromentalists are interested in impoverishing the world. Just that a subset of them would accept that as a byproduct of their goals and this was the subset represented on my TV last weekend. I do not have time today for a longer response but let me say I expected you to more more peevish and less mossy.

puddleglum: I thought why would anyone take time to travel all the way to Quebec and spent [sic] days there protesting to ensure that Latin America stays poor.


While I’m not a rabid anti-globalization fanatic, I recognize that the existing and proposed “free trade agreements” are definitely not any kind of magic carpet to prosperity for developing nations, and nobody even minimally informed about the issue imagines that they are.

Take a look, for example, at what Mexican Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of Mexico’s Congress) member Carlos Heredia Zubieta has to say about the effects of NAFTA on Mexican workers:

At the time Heredia said this (2000), Mexico had already had six years of NAFTA. What do you know, the trade liberalization that was supposed to have provided poor people with “jobs to feed and clothe their families” in fact ended up making life worse for vast numbers of them. The wages of many Mexicans dropped, the living environment of many Mexicans was additionally degraded, the prosperity of many indigenous Mexican businesses vanished. You call this prosperity?

In short, puddleglum, your ideas about trade liberalization are hopelessly naive. I think there are definitely ways to make it work that will end up genuinely benefiting those “millions mired in poverty” that you seem so concerned about, but the track record of the policies that have been actually implemented is none too great. So it seems to me that there are indeed plenty of reasons to protest attempts to extend the “blessings” of Mexico’s trade status to the whole of Latin America, and they have nothing to do with selfishness.

Nor are they as evil as the majority of the tear-gassed ones say.

Well, without data, I don’t think this is saying much, now is it Kimstu?

Have they or has income inequality and disparity also sharpened for reasons not related to trade liberalization. Further, is not the proper yardstick whether most Mexicans have benefitted even if some have benefitted more than others. The yardstick here is flawed from the get go.

Well, again, I would like to see numbers. One can assert what one wants.

Now, I hasten to add I am well aware of the issues involved in trade liberalization and among those are helping previously closed economies develop the capacity to respond. I am distinctly aware that contra theory, per my experience in the Middle East, without a proper cultural/institutional framework (in both private and public senses), liberalization may end up being too destructive for a society to take in the near term, although long term benefits are there.

Again, nice rhetoric, I hear the same thing every damn day here from the Nasserist press. What’s the reality behind this? It’s easy to claim that globalization/liberalization programs are causing poverty, however my experience has been the actual causes are rather deeper. Not that income distribution problems etc are to be poopooed, but neither do I see it as accurate to make an easy link with trade liberalization, whatever the rhetoric.

Okay, let’s see some numbers. Is this true? Even if it is, are there aggregate gains?

Again, data is needed, but even if it were the case, the real question is are Mexicans gaining in the aggregate.

Obviously this is not NAFTA connected. Further, given that I believe that Mexico has a large “grey economy” I suspect that the minimium wage on the books is largely, ** as here in Egypt ** something of a showcase with little real value for most workers.

So? Again, the yardstick is a false one. The real yardstick is have a majority of Mexicans gained in real economic terms (recalling one has to watch out for nominal terms in these situations) since NAFTA was implemented. Decomposing gains from NAFTA I am sure are complex, as are decomposing losses. If I had a good library with such materials I might try to dig up some stuff, but obviously not much in the way of NAFTA stuff here.

Well, Kimstu, where are your ‘vast numbers’? I saw no data. Further, the comments provided simply indicated that there were growing inequalities, which does not mean that poor families lives grew worse in absolute terms. A shifty little tactic anti-free trade rhetoric uses.

He didn’t say that now did he? Do you have actual data on this?

Again, he did not say that, and attention – given population growth and other issues which have driven Mexican economic problems in the past one would not expect that NAFTA in and of itself could create prosperity. Rather, as in the case of economic aid, a proper question to ask is did NAFTA trade help limit the problem or create new paths for future prosperity. I wait a decomposition of gains and losses before leaping to the above conclusion.

I call prosperity prosperity. Perhaps “indigenous” businesses have lost out, I await objective data on the matter, but as stated above, if most boats were lifted by NAFTA trade, then that’s what counts.

I don’t think so Kimstu, and your analysis does not merit this sort of rebuke to pg. Certainly not what was presented here.

What poverty reduction track records are good? The scale of the problem is quite staggering. What suggestions do you have?

No, just lack of understanding.

IMHO the media has given undeserved attention to the protests of a relatively small number of people. Media coverage encourages more protest and rioting.

Collounsbury: *It’s easy to claim that globalization/liberalization programs are causing poverty, however my experience has been the actual causes are rather deeper. Not that income distribution problems etc are to be poopooed, but neither do I see it as accurate to make an easy link with trade liberalization, whatever the rhetoric. *

Collounsbury, I completely agree with you that poverty in developing nations is a very complex issue, and I am far from wishing to demonize trade liberalization as an automatic evil. And you’re quite right that we need to see specific figures, and set specific goals, before we can assess how successful or destructive trade liberalization is on the whole. Nonetheless, it’s clear that the programs implemented so far have not proved to be a wonderful ticket to prosperity for poor countries, and they have been accompanied in many cases by serious problems for the environment and for workers’ rights. Even you, well-informed and favorably inclined toward globalization as you are, don’t seem able to come up with any more ringing endorsement of trade liberalization than “it’s not as evil as many people say” and “without a proper cultural/institutional framework (in both private and public senses), liberalization may end up being too destructive for a society to take in the near term, although long term benefits are there.”

In my opinion, the fact that current implementations of liberalization are accompanied by some serious problems and dangers, however good an idea it may be on the whole in the long run, is obvious. There are things to worry about when it comes to trade liberalization, and you don’t have to be a selfish ignoramus to be concerned about them, or to protest the actions of people and institutions who don’t seem to be paying enough attention to them. That seems to me quite sufficient to justify my contempt for puddleglum’s childish rancor and sweeping accusations; and I don’t retract it. I do, however, entirely agree with you that an argument without facts is no argument, so it’s up to me to provide some. See you in my next post.

Hey, puddleglum, I’m with you on your assessment of Ultimate Frisbee (do you play?) … But, hey, even we ultimate players have to take a break from it occasionally to help save the world! :wink:

Seriously though, this free trade stuff is, I have to admit, one issue I just have left it to others to think about…But as kimstu rightfully points out, there are serious issues here and your assessment of it is indeed extremely naive.

As in most things, while free trade is not a zero sum game, i.e., trade can in net produce greater wealth, there are tradeoffs and there can be winners and losers. When free trade negotiations are carried out in a climate of secrecy behind miles of chain-link fence, you can bet that the agreement that emerges may do more to empower those who already have the power to influence the process (such as big multinational corporations) than those who do not have this power.

There are some very serious issues about free trade agreements and how they can be structured in such a way that they do not encourage a “race toward the bottom” in terms of environmental and labor standards. In a related vein, they often call on the nations entering into the agreements to give up sovereignty on enforcing their own environmental and labor laws in the name of free trade. (Witness the suit brought by a Canadian company, under NAFTA I think, alleging that California is violating the agreement by banning that gasoline additive [MBE?].)

And if you think that somehow “free trade” is the magic bullet that is going to lift the impoverished out of their poverty and end hunger et al. as we know it, well, might you be being just a little naive?!? As the quote that kimstu cites points out, even the case for the free trade agreements helping the impoverished in the poorer nations involved in the agreement is not so clear.

Finally, it sort of amazes me that some of the same people who trash the Kyoto Protocol on this message board as being unfair because it supposedly favors one group (developing nations) over another (developed nations) seem to turn a blind eye to negotiations that are carried out under a lot less light-of-day than the whole Kyoto Protocol. All of a sudden, y’all are ready to jump on the bandwagon and believe that it is of great benefit to all!! [BTW, Collounsbury, I don’t mean this to apply to you, as I know your disagreements with Kyoto are of a different nature and less extreme.]

puddleglum: Here is an excellent editorial in The Nation which makes some of the arguments I was trying to make above, only much more coherently:

The Nation also has a page with links to various aspects of the FTAA protests: (This one I have not yet had much of a chance to look at myself.)

Hope that helps you to gain more of an understanding of the motivations behind the protests!

True, very true.

My observation is that the issues of workers rights and indeed environment are largely not dependant on globalization. Rather, it seems to me that opponents like to make trade liberalization carry the responsibility for a number of ills that in fact largely depend on (a) extreme poverty which itself derives from (b) rapid population growth (b) inefficient and unproductive economic structures, be they traditional (leaving aside all the romantic shit said about that, one needs efficiencies to produce more to feed more mouths) or state/social sector © corrupt governmental and social practices (and here I disagree with the libertarian view of the world which pushes evils off onto the government alone, corrupt private practices may be, as I have seen directly, as detrimental) which undermine wealth accumulation by poorer classes, regardless of Western presence or not.

What I see here is local elites exploiting anti-western and anti-capitalist and anti-liberalization sentiment in their own use. The issues of increasing poverty, unproductive factories are not caused by liberalization, rather liberalization merely throws a stark light on **already existing abuses and structures and bad habits ** which in fact have previously been papered over. Until the issue becomes unsustainable. Then they have to go running to the IMF who gets blamed for a mess.

Now, I can and do critique the IMF for assuming certain kinds of responses and results from restructuring programs which in fact are partly culturally dependent. A terrible lacunae in our economic training and thinking in re behavioural responses is only recently being addressed. At the same time the IMF is also not entirely at fault for often half-hearted application of programs that might otherwise have more positive effects, but challenge the established interests of the ruling elites (governmental and private, ya libertarians, and private.).

Let us take worker rights. The socialist state in Egypt, for example, gave workers all kinds of rights. On paper. Let me repeat that. On paper. Right to employment etc.

Result? Well in part a rigid state controlled labor market featuring “hidden unemployment” in offices and factories where even engineers got minimium wage but didn’t really work. (Not quite the Soviet Union, but given my past exp. in the East Bloc not that far off) And a massive, truly massive informal sector, off the books. What real “benefit” are those nice spanky laws?

Now, restructuring includes opening up the labor market, making labor laws more flexible and in fact realistic given prevailing conditions.

So, we hear howls about how trade liberalization is hurting the interests of the workers. Well, on paper yes. No doubt about that. But what fucking good was that paper? Who really benefitted? Did anyone?

My position on many of these items is I want to look beyond the rhetoric, the easy claims, and see what the reality is and was. Frankly, non-free trade models (and I include in free trade rubric some partially protectionist models for infant industries and the like to help with transition.) have produced nothing, aboslutely nothing but economic waste and crises. It’s all well and good to say that liberalization ain’t magic, but on the other hand what are the other options?

But I say that about any option. There are not good solutions in the near term. None.

Sometimes treatment, medicine is painful, especially when the disease is allowed to fester to the point of going septic. That is a hard reality. It is, to be frank, terribly depressing to look with cold hard eyes on Egyptian macro figures, water profiles and future pop and econ growth rates. No easy solutions. I frankly think avoiding a neo-malthusian crisis in thirty years would be a positive scenario for some countries in the region.

Rights? According to an Egyptian friend of mine, in Egypt you have to be employeed or you go to prison. No right to strike or anything. Is that what they are calling “worker’s rights” these days?? The right to be on time to work under threat of torture? Are you really saying the Egyptians who don’t “buck-up” are economic waste, a festering disease?


That’s not true at all. There is unofficial unemployment. Historically in the Nasserist era is might have been true, I frankly don’t know, but I doubt the state ever had the capacity to enforce it if it were true. I suspect this is an exageration.

There are rights to strike in Civil Code I believe, but in practical terms the 1981 declaration of emergency renders all civil rights somewhat… at the discretion of the government.

I don’t want to exagerate. Egypt does provide its citizens with more freedoms, effective ones, than many places. Even in the past they did not achieve a true police state (although the apparatus is there and they come close in someareas). However, neither is it terribly rosy.

Eh? I don’t follow this last comment. Connection?

That is what I thought when I was told this, but it seems feasible. I’m sure there is an underground economy, just like everywhere. But, same as here, I’m sure participation in it has its risks.

I think you picked a bad example. If these people don’t have a right to strike, they certaintly have a right not to be productive. Some of these people are lazy, others are just engaging in a work slow down.

I work with plenty of non-value-added people. I don’t see how all the free trade in the world is going to change that. If everyone worked at full capacity, there would be massive unemployment. People can barely consume all the junk that is produced now.

One problem lies with the language and scope of the agreement such as Chapter 11 of NAFTA. Chapter 11 allows companies to sue governments that pass laws that restrict or curtail profits. These suits are brought before a trade board the public is not allowed to attend. Currently a Canandian company is suing the state of California over a gasoline additive that the state has mandated should be phased out over the next few years because it is a public health hazzard. A U.S. company in turn has sued a Canadian company over something similar. There is a tiny town in Mexico that had a closed down dump site. An American based company petitioned to have the dump opened so they can dump their toxic waste. The community and the Mexican government said no. Now they are being sued. I believe this type of thing is how drug companies have gotten away with trying to sue South Africa over AIDS medications. There is some concern in this hemisphere about Brazil. Evidently they produce cheap generic AIDS drugs and give them out to anyone who needs them. Entering into an agreement such as NAFTA will leave them wide open for suits from drug companies. And I’m sure most Brazilians would not see this as being in the best interest of public health.

I am still not particularily well versed in how these agreements work. Originally I could see nothing wrong with “free trade”. But it should not come at the expense of democracy, or the rights of a government to act in the better interest of it’s people. Why a government would agree to such provisions is beyond me in the first place.


Free trade may not instantly lift the developing world out of poverty but it is a good start. It will provide developing nations with jobs and access to capital. It will force kleptocratic governments to reform and liberalize. These are not all that is necessary for prosperity but they are an improvement over the status quo. Here is a link to an article about the benefits of free trade to developing countries. For those with Adobe Acrobat there is a link to the full report at the bottom of the article.
As for the arguement that free trade is anti-democratic, we recently had an election in the US and the two candidates who were for free trade (Bush and Gore) won 96% of the vote and th two anti-free trade candidates (Buchanon and Nader) won 4%. And yet the protestors claim to represent democracy. Who elected them?

Well, I will verify later on, however to clarify, the “underground” economy is not a really a good phrase. Grey economy is better. Much of what we’re talking about here is not illegal at all, just non-tax paying. Administrative mechanisms are hardly good enough to fully enforce even for large corps, so the question becomes complex.

In any case, the grey economy is as much as 50% of total economic activity.

Ah. This is not really relevant. It’s not a matter of work slow down, it’s not even a matter of laziness. It’s that there is no actual work for people to do. Massive overstaffing.

Rubbish. I don’t feel like explaining basic economics here, but there is not a whit of merit to this view.

Here are a couple of editorials from one of my sources. I can get all the pro-business jargon I need right off of the nightly TV news, The New York Post or my local paper.

I see nothing wrong with the concept of free trade. What I do see wrong with these agreements is they can be used to turn multinational corporations into governing bodies. I’d rather we leave that to the people and their elected officals, even if they are to uninformed to always know what they are getting into.


Agreed. But I don’t see what socialism in Egypt has to do with the FTAA. I don’t think there is a country in the Americas (except Cuba) that is socialist to this degree.

OK, so you aren’t a big fan of Keynes. Well, some of the people against the FTAA are. I think the labor situation in Mexico over the past siz years since NAFTA was enacted show his theories work fairly well to explain the continuing wage decline there due to increased “free trade.”

Looking up facts about NAFTA as Collounsbury requested, I decided to split them into two parts. First, what problems are there with trade liberalization policies such as NAFTA from the viewpoint of First World countries, in this case, the US? Second, what problems are there from the viewpoint of the developing countries, in this case, Mexico? This post addresses the first question.

Despite puddleglum’s sneers in the OP, I think it’s quite legitimate for US workers to be concerned about liberalization policies that cause them to lose their jobs—especially since for many semi-skilled workers in manufacturing trades whose plant moves south and/or east, finding another job as good as the one they lost may be by no means as easy as pg’s airy allusions to want ads and interviews imply. To forestall the standard objections: No, workers don’t have a right to guaranteed job protection. And yes, workers’ effective purchasing power is increased when cheaper imports made by lower-wage workers are readily available. Nonetheless, workers have a perfect right to oppose attempts by their own government to encourage employers to take away their jobs and leave them with job opportunities that are distinctly inferior to the ones they lost, especially if few or no attempts are made to retrain workers for other good jobs or to encourage local development that will provide new good jobs. (Especially, also, if the relocated plant takes advantage of more lax laws in its new country to damage workers’ rights or the environment—but that’s Part II.)

So the sixty-four-dollar question is, has NAFTA had that effect? In other words,

  • Did NAFTA cause the loss of significant numbers of U.S. jobs and leave workers with inferior job opportunities? (The second clause is as important as the first, since somebody who can easily move into a new job as good as the one he/she lost has no real cause for complaint.)
  • If so, did NAFTA counteract that by worker retraining and
    incentives for new industry development?

Knowing that it would be considered suspect and biased to start from the viewpoint of reports by progressive foundations such as the Economic Policy Institute, I took as my baseline this 1998 report from the National Council for Science and the Environment. Its summary says:

That sounds sufficiently level-headed and pro-globalization to keep you folks happy, eh? So what are the facts that those claims are based on? (Statements in the following quotes are supported by the footnotes that you can find in the linked report; most of them refer to US International Trade Commission publications.)

That’s kind of a skip from '75 to '96, considering NAFTA was only implemented in '94; we don’t know how much production sharing grew before the major trade liberalization. However, I think it’s pretty well accepted that trade liberalization has been beneficial to US businesses (otherwise, they’d hardly be supporting it). No dispute that this is a good thing.

So it is acknowledged that NAFTA has indeed resulted in job loss for many lower-skilled US textile workers. (Others have also been affected: the Bronfenbrenner report linked below notes that “according to US Department of Commerce reports, in 1999 alone a total of 341,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in the US” largely on account of NAFTA.) The counterarguments are that

  1. higher-skilled jobs have remained in the US and the average industry wage has increased;
  2. job losses would have been worse if the whole process had relocated to Asia.

Now while it’s a good thing that higher-skilled workers get to keep their jobs, the fact that the average industry wage has risen appears to be a bit of a red herring. Of course, if the lower-skilled and lower-paying jobs disappear and the higher-skilled and higher-paying ones remain, the average industry wage will rise! Simply “disappearing” the workers on the low end of the scale automatically moves the average worker higher up the scale, but it doesn’t do a thing to help the “disappeared” low-skilled workers whose jobs were moved.

The second point is also somewhat double-edged, claiming that one aspect of economic globalization (NAFTA) is a good thing because the effects of another aspect of economic globalization (moving production to the Asian Third World) would have been worse. Besides the general dubiousness of conditional arguments, this is not such a great advertisement for economic globalization on the whole, is it? “Adopt managed trade liberalization schemes now! They throw fewer people out of work than unrestricted global capital movements do!” Um, was there a third option in there somewhere, boss?..

Another issue that can be almost as serious as actual job loss is the use of threats of plant relocation in order to squelch collective action on the part of US workers who still have jobs. Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University wrote a report (PDF) for the US Trade Deficit Review Commission on such incidents involving NAFTA, in which she points out that her 1996 study for the NAALC found that half of all employers (62% in more mobile industries like manufacturing and communications) involved in private sector certification election campaigns threatened some sort of operations shutdown if workers voted for a union. Now while relocations and relocation threats aren’t unique to the NAFTA situation, the existence of liberalized trade with such an important economic partner makes such threats much more credible and much easier to carry out, seriously intimidating labor activity (see Bronfenbrenner’s report for details). Not all of this is legal under the National Labor Relations Act, but legal repercussions for bullying employers are notoriously rare and superficial.

As for offsetting the impacts of job loss:

NAFTA does contain some provisions for worker retraining, the Transitional Adjustment Assistance Program. Opinions on its importance and success are divided: this Pittsburgh Business Times article claims it’s largely unneeded, while this EPI report claims it’s helping fewer than 5% of NAFTA-displaced workers. Both sides seem to agree that the issue has been blurred by the strong economy and tight labor markets of the mid-90’s, in which many laid-off workers could readily obtain at least some kind of new employment; as the economy slows, we may get a clearer picture of how important or valuable retraining assistance really is.

Either way, there’s no question that retraining and unemployment compensation are not as good as having a job, nor are they any guarantee that the retrainee will actually end up being able to get another job, much less one as good or better than the lost job. More importantly (since we did take it as a given that guaranteed job protection is neither possible nor desirable), the trade liberalization “perspective” presented in the above quote dumps the problem of worker readjustment squarely in the lap of domestic policy. Free trade advocates such as the ones who met in Quebec generally do not want trade policy saddled with domestic employment issues, and I can see the point of that.

Nonetheless, from the point of view of the US worker, it’s a rather chilling philosophy. Trade liberalizers are largely expecting worker job loss in developed countries to be handled via “the social safety net” and “education and training”. But the social safety net, as well as public investment in education and training, are under serious attack right now in the US by an administration that favors minimizing government’s role in the economy.

The above discussion and the linked sources, I think, provide ample factual evidence that

  • NAFTA has caused significant job loss in the US, particularly among lower-skilled workers who do not find it easy to get equally good jobs outside of manufacturing;

  • NAFTA has contributed to the power employers exert (not always legally) to frighten workers away from collective action;

  • NAFTA has provided many new jobs and some new training to offset lost jobs, but so far not enough (especially in the hardest-hit sectors of the workforce) to counteract its contributions to job insecurity among US workers.

IMHO (especially given the lack of commitment in the current US political climate to public investment in the social safety net and human capital development), US workers have good reason to be worried about trade liberalization. Your turn, Collounsbury: what are the facts that encourage you to think that such concerns are unjustified, or what policies do you recommend for alleviating them if they are justified?

— Christ in a buttercup, Collounsbury, I spend all day composing this only to find out from your subsequent post that you already acknowledge that the short-term effects of liberalization are often detrimental. Arrgh! :slight_smile: Okay, what are your reasons for thinking that the long-term effects will constitute an improvement? And how far away is the long term?

Stay tuned for Part II, where I’ll attempt to look at NAFTA’s effects in Mexico. Mindful of your complaints, I’ll be especially careful to try to separate problems due to NAFTA from ones that already existed, but I admit it’s going to be tough.

I bow to you Kimstu “The Information Godess”. I look around to find facts and figures on these very things and usually come up with editorials. Thank you so much for the information. Keep it coming. I’m am obviously search engine impaired.