Friday, July 01, 2005

Free Trade Fictions

agggh... And while people might want to get all abstract with this business, let's just rememebr that CAFTA isn't so free, as Mark Engler, of Counterpunch points out:
Some of the main beneficiaries in the U.S. are likely to be large pharmaceutical companies. CAFTA's intellectual property provisions would stop poorer countries in the region from producing inexpensive, generic drugs. Dr. Karim Laouabdia of the Nobel-prize-winning organization Doctors Without Borders--which has been providing generic antiretrovirals to Guatemalan AIDS patients--argues that new patent protections "could make newer medicines unaffordable." For his group, this "means treating fewer people and, in effect, sentencing the rest to death."
I find nothing more annoying than being in arguments with the ultimate in liberals, supporters of free-trade. Many of them are very nice people, they just don't understand that "free trade" really is all about free for the people who have already spent a lot of time building up their economies with very unfree trade. Immanuel Wallerstein is always helpful in these debates. He recalls this scenario when the British and the Dutch were in constant trade conflict:
The strong countries are in favor of free trade only up to a point. For example, in the seventeenth century, the Dutch (then called the United Provinces), who were then the most efficient producers (and traders) in Europe, preached the virtues of free trade to a weaker England and France. But that didn't mean that the Dutch didn't protect certain markets. In 1663, Sir George Downing, a British statesman, bitterly noted about Dutch policy: "It is mare liberum [open seas] in the British seas but mare clausum [closed seas] on the coast of Africa and the East Indies." The British had to fight three maritime wars with the Dutch to even the playing field in world trade for them.
As he also points out, that the same holds true today. While the US may be all for free trade in Central America, it certainly isn't all for free trade when it comes to setting up new businesses in Iraq.
If there were a hypocrisy meter in this country, it would have broken a long time ago. I just can't stand it.

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