‘Free Trade’ hysterics from Project Syndicate & The Economist: or ‘Trade Liberalization’ as defense of the Corporatist TPP & TTIP, a comment by Almost Marx

Never fear that the advocates and apologists for Neo-Liberal Utopianism, in it’s 8th year of near free fall, have found a new utopianism to replace the old. Called ‘Free Trade’ or ‘Globalism’ by the zealous advocates, or just the usual political hirelings of Think Tanks and political opportunists of various ideological hues. Simon Tilford and the editors at Project Syndicate prefer the scare headline and an explanatory sub-headline:

Overcoming the Poisonous Politics of Protectionism

Hillary Clinton faces an election that has come to revolve around the legitimacy of a political establishment that she epitomizes. And no issue has fueled that challenge – in the US and Europe alike – more powerfully than international trade

Mr. Telford provides a suitable introduction i.e. a defense of TPP &TTIP, to his scorecard of advocates of the for and against positions:

LONDON – According to conventional economic wisdom, free trade is good – so the freer the better. After all, steady trade liberalization in recent decades has clearly boosted economic growth in developed and developing countries alike. But, as Barry Eichengreen of the University of California at Berkeley notes, “just because economists agree doesn’t mean they’re right.” And even when economists are right about trade, that doesn’t stop vote-chasing politicians from ignoring their advice.

That is certainly true today. “One thing is now certain about the upcoming presidential election in the United States: the next president will not be a committed free trader,” Eichengreen writes. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, “is at best a lukewarm supporter of freer trade, and of the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] in particular. Her Republican counterpart, Donald Trump, is downright hostile to trade deals that would throw open US markets,” promising to impose high import tariffs, particularly on Chinese goods.


Should the reader be surprised that the NATO general, now the ‘Wests’ appointed  Ukrainian Viceroy, Anders Fogh Rasmussen supports TTIP?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former secretary general of NATO, is similarly upbeat about the TTIP, arguing that it would add $125 billion to US GDP and a similar amount (proportionally) to the EU economy.


While the utterly staid and or sclerotic editors of The Economist prefer a strategically depoliticized propaganda approach, yet awash in reflected xenophobia of Mr. Trump as exemplar of Anti-Globalization: ‘Farewell, left versus right.’  is utterly mooted by the argument presented in the body of the essay, and the obligatory appearance of ‘Leftist’ Sen. Sanders – so much for argumentative coherence:

Headline: The new political divide

Sub-headline: Farewell, left versus right. The contest that matters now is open against closed

AS POLITICAL theatre, America’s party conventions have no parallel. Activists from right and left converge to choose their nominees and celebrate conservatism (Republicans) and progressivism (Democrats). But this year was different, and not just because Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party. The conventions highlighted a new political faultline: not between left and right, but between open and closed (see article). Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, summed up one side of this divide with his usual pithiness. “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo,” he declared. His anti-trade tirades were echoed by the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party.

America is not alone. Across Europe, the politicians with momentum are those who argue that the world is a nasty, threatening place, and that wise nations should build walls to keep it out. Such arguments have helped elect an ultranationalist government in Hungary and a Polish one that offers a Trumpian mix of xenophobia and disregard for constitutional norms. Populist, authoritarian European parties of the right or left now enjoy nearly twice as much support as they did in 2000, and are in government or in a ruling coalition in nine countries. So far, Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has been the anti-globalists’ biggest prize: the vote in June to abandon the world’s most successful free-trade club was won by cynically pandering to voters’ insular instincts, splitting mainstream parties down the middle.


To be sure the essay wanders off into what the writer feels is pertinent political territory:

News that strengthens the anti-globalisers’ appeal comes almost daily. On July 26th two men claiming allegiance to Islamic State slit the throat of an 85-year-old Catholic priest in a church near Rouen. It was the latest in a string of terrorist atrocities in France and Germany. The danger is that a rising sense of insecurity will lead to more electoral victories for closed-world types. This is the gravest risk to the free world since communism. Nothing matters more than countering it.

Higher walls, lower living standards

Start by remembering what is at stake. The multilateral system of institutions, rules and alliances, led by America, has underpinned global prosperity for seven decades. It enabled the rebuilding of post-war Europe, saw off the closed world of Soviet communism and, by connecting China to the global economy, brought about the greatest poverty reduction in history.

We have reached the hysteria, political and economic, that elides from this potted history the utter failure of Neo-Liberalism to deliver the goods i.e. prosperity. The Myth of the Self-Correcting Market is utterly dead

Distracting the reader with this sales pitch, that only highlights the weak thesis that somehow the political categories of ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ do not have political purchase. The vapid categories of ‘open’ and ‘closed’ are more politically manageable, manipulable categories in the production of propaganda and it’s imperatives. Propagandists are by nature paternalistic. The ‘Free Trade Club’ vs.the ‘Wall-Builders’ (More inept sloganeering)  i.e. the New Political Apostates who must  be defeated, and the paradigmatic duo for the job is led by the Clinton/Kaine New Democratic ticket, the argued cosmopolitans of that ‘Globalism’ as replacement for the now moribund Neo-Liberal Utopianism. There is so much more here to be explored, in both these essays! at another time?


Almost Marx


About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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