Open the Trade Deal
by Matt Stoller, Sat May 12, 2007 at 07:50:34 AM EDT
For most of the 1990s, I was an ardent free trader. I learned my economics from Marty Feldstein, Reagan's chief economic advisor, and I'm still someone who sees immense benefits in globalization. We're going to need to figure out new models for trade, carbon tariffs, changes in currency trading systems, etc. And our politics are dominated by trade, whether it's connecting the flood of illegal immigration to the effects of NAFTA or discussing the declining leverage of labor and the working poor.
After doing some calling around on this new trade deal announced on Thursday, there is one specific thing that gives me great pause. It's not that the deal was negotiated in secret without the input of fair traders, or that the public voted against corporate trade deals with the 2006 elections. I expect there will be some labor and environmental standards in this deal, there's no way that Rangel or Pelosi would have cut a deal that didn't offer at least a fig leaf. And it's not that the Teamsters are against the deal, or Public Citizen, or that corporate interests are heralding the lack of enforceability on these various provisions. Frankly, I have no idea if the deal is good or not. I know good people that still want to educate themselves about the details of the deal, and that's a prudent strategy. Sherrod Brown and the AFL-CIO are kind of in this boat, concerned about the details of the deal but not immediately dismissive.
Here's what concerns me. There was a big press conference on Thursday designed to create a certain type of message around the trade pact. The Democrats won labor and environmental standards, but corporate America is happy as well. You can see the reporting coming out with this messaging. The problem is that the details of the deal are still secret. I have talked to Congressman Michaud's office, to the USBIC, and to various trade groups, and none of them have seen the specifics of the deal.
This is extremely problematic and dishonest of the people negotiating and announcing the details. Pelosi, Rangel, Baucus, Bush, and the New Democrats knew that they could generate a huge raft of headlines on the trade deal without actually revealing the meat of the deal, so they did so. This is pretty much how the war in Iraq was sold, how the Bankruptcy bill was sold, and how NAFTA was sold.
In fact, we have only three pieces of real information about the deal. One, we know that it was negotiated by New Democrats, Pelosi, Baucus, and Bush, and that labor unions and fair traders were excluded. And two, we know that the announcement was made to generate headlines without giving us the details to actually know whether the proponents of the deal were telling the truth.
And we know the deal is still secret. The question is, why?