issues2000

Ralph Nader on Free Trade


Restrict IMF power, or abolish it

The IMF makes loans to debtor countries to help overcome balance-of-payment deficits, conditioned on those countries adopting a policy package known as “structural adjustment.”

When individuals are unable to pay their debts, the debtor and the creditor share the pain, through bankruptcy or otherwise. No such thing happens in international financial markets. When countries are unable to meet their payment obligations, the IMF rushes in, and provides money to the borrower. This money is used to repay creditors, letting them off the hook. The pain is borne exclusively by the borrowing country, which must accept recessionary austerity conditions from the IMF.

Working out a sensible system of international financial regulation, which avoids Wall Street bailouts & unfairly punishing debtor countries, is a complicated matter. It is clear, however, that the IMF has to be reined in. Even some Wall Street conservatives suggest that the IMF’s power should be restricted or the IMF abolished altogether.

Source: Cutting Corporate Welfare, p. 84-85 & 89 Oct 9, 2000

End export assistance; it’s corporate welfare

Various government agencies maintain an array of export assistance programs. These programs raise the question of why overseas marketing and lending and other export assistance should be a government rather than a private sector function.

As regular beneficiaries of double standards, big business executives and lobbyists, it seems, are without a sense of irony. How do the corporate proponents of international trade agreements designed to promote misnamed ‘free trade’ explain their simultaneous support for marketing subsidies? If it is only on the grounds that “other countries do the same thing.” Perhaps they should turn their multinational lobbying prowess to eliminating other countries’ export assistance programs.

The most disturbing feature of many of these programs may be that the assisted companies export troublesome products or technologies-weapons, or environmentally hazardous equipment, for example. Such programs, especially arms exports initiatives, should be ended.

Source: Cutting Corporate Welfare, p.103-104 Oct 9, 2000

Renegotiate NAFTA & WTO “as if human beings mattered”

A fair trader rather than a free-trader, Nader would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and the World Trade Organization “as if human beings mattered, not global corporations,” insisting on meaningful environmental and worker protections.
Source: Scot Lehigh, Boston Globe, page D1 Oct 8, 2000

Subordinate the commercial to human rights, enviro, & labor

I would have labor treaties that have teeth, consumer protection treaties, and food and environmental treaties. If we put it all in one big trade treaty, the economic imperative is going to always dominate, just because the corporations are always there. We’ve progressed by subordinating the commercial to the human rights, labor rights, and environmental rights imperatives. The WTO reverses that.
Source: Robert Kuttner interview in American Prospect Jul 2, 2000

It’s not free trade; it’s corporate-managed trade

Free trade is a misnomer. Monopoly patents are not free trade; they’re trying to convert all sorts of natural knowledge into intellectual property, 20-year patents. That’s not free trade. And the rest of it is managed trade. True free trade would take only one page for a trade agreement. How come there are hundreds of pages, and thousands of regulations? It’s corporate-managed trade.
Source: New Texas, Candidate For a Green Planet Apr 28, 2000

NAFTA failures: $50B Mexico bailout; 400,000 exported jobs

Q: How would you rate NAFTA? I know you opposed it.
    A: NAFTA has turned out worse than we predicted.
  1. Nobody predicted that the US government would have to have a package of $ 50 billion to bail out the crooked Mexican government regime and its billionaire oligarchs.
  2. NAFTA promised us more jobs. We’ve lost almost 400,000 jobs because we now have moved from a trade surplus in Mexico to probably a $ 10 billion trade deficit. And we have a deficit. We’re exporting jobs -- probably about 350,000 to 400,000 jobs.
  3. It’s turned out badly for most of the Mexican people; they’re poorer, they’re more unemployed and they are ravaged by a vicious inflation.
  4. The borders are a nightmare; more smuggling, more pollution, more infectious diseases. The environmental commissions are toothless.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday Interview, p. 3/Z1 Oct 13, 1996


Ralph Nader on Globalization

Globalization is a betrayal of workers and environment

The key to Nader’s clout is frustration on the left, especially when it comes to the globalization initiatives of Bill Clinton. Nader lashes out at the World Trade Organization and the recent passage of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China. Such agreements, he charges, betray workers here and abroad by ignoring labor and environmental standards. Indeed, several Nader-founded groups helped lead last year’s demonstrations against the WTO in Seattle.
Source: Matthew Cooper, Time magazine, p. 79 Nov 6, 2000

Seattle sparked movement to question corporate globalization

Q: What are your observations on the demonstrations at the WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle? Do you think they might be a spark for a new movement for social change?
A: I think they have been. They’ve gone back from Seattle to have meetings in church basements and union halls, [and the issue is now in] the global media’s attention. Corporate globalization, the corporate model of economic development, the autocratic systems of governance embedded in the WTO, which subvert our legitimate local, state and national sovereignties, imperil our existing health and safety laws, should they be superior to those of other countries who are exporting to us and say that they’re trade barriers and take us to tribunals in Geneva which are secret kangaroo-type courts and beat us there, because the mandate of GATT and now the WTO is trade ber alles. Trade subordinates all over consumer, environmental, health, safety and workplace standards.
Source: Alternative Radio interview with David Barsamian Feb 23, 2000

“Battle of Seattle” convinced president to reconsider WTO

The media called it “the battle of Seattle” last week. After ignoring the articulate pleas of advocacy groups back in 1994 when he was ramming the WTO & GATT through Congress, Clinton started repeating their concerns. He came out for openness, instead of the secrecy of the WTO. He came out for more consideration of labor and environmental rights by the WTO. He asked the world’s nations to consider whether they are going in “the direction we all want to go.” Well, well, well, Mr. Clinton-a WTO reborner!
Source: “In the Public Interest” newspaper column Dec 7, 1999

Global trade concentrates power & homogenizes the globe

The global corporatists preach a model of economic growth that rests on the flows of trade and finance between nations dominated by the giant multinationals -- drugs, tobacco, oil, banking, and other services. The global corporate model is premised on the concentration of power over markets, governments, mass media, patent monopolies over critical drugs and seeds, the workplace and corporate culture. All these and other power concentrates, homogenize the globe and undermine democratic processes and their benefits.

Far better for countries to focus on building domestic markets through land reform, microcredit for small businesses, use of local materials for housing and renewable energy solar-style. For developing countries, it is far better for bottom-up capital formation to encourage activities that are more job intensive -- generating purchasing power -- than adopting highly capitalized and chemical plantation type agribusiness with destructive technologies.

Source: “In the Public Interest” newspaper column Dec 7, 1999

WTO’s “trade uber alles” hurts environment, health, & safety

In the WTO], environmental, consumer and workplace health and safety regulations have to prove they are “least trade restrictive.” What that omnipresent phrase means is that one country can challenge another country’s safety laws or standards for allegedly obstructing imports. So far these cases brought before the WTO’s secret tribunals usually have been decided against health and safety under the tribunal judges’ yardstick of “trade uber alles.”
Source: “In the Public Interest” newspaper column Dec 7, 1999

A growing movement: international labor rights

Textile workers in a Bangladesh factory that makes clothes for Wal-mart are paid between 9› and 20› an hour - far less than the countries’ legal 33› minimum wage - seven days a week. The coming year will see a more intense focus on the booming practice of using child laborers under conditions unimaginable to most Americans. International trade in products made by children, in many cases under indentured servitude, is legal under the WTO. Linked to standards of justice for the oppressed children and young adults laboring for the massive profits of Wal-Mart, Nike, and other giant companies, consumer dollars can speak power and truth. The alternative is for unknowing shoppers to keep allowing these abuses that lead to obscene profits for corporations.
Source: “In the Public Interest” newspaper column Aug 17, 1999

Multinational corporations challenge democracy

Q: There must be firms or forces in society that you have decided now are more malignant than you thought 25 years ago, and companies on the other hand that actually have improved and are behaving better. There must have been some changes.

A: With the collapse of communism and with the absence of any alternative way of ordering private property and using public assets, we’re entering into a generation of global power of the multi-national corporations. There’s no society that’s able to withstand commercial western culture. Perhaps fundamentalism and Islam is trying to do it.... But that’s going to be the challenge now, whether democracy is going to be up to it. Whether these giant corporations are going to be able to respect instead of erode and control democratic processes and these new trade agreements like GATT and the World Trade Organization are not encouraging.

Source: David Frost interview Oct 21, 1994

Other candidates on Free Trade: Ralph Nader on other issues:
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Dick Cheney
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