Guest Column: The limits of free trade

I heard U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-16) on the radio making a very valid and pain-free argument that the Chinese government suppresses the value of its currency by pegging it to the dollar and forever making their products and services cheaper than the U.S. could ever hope to compete with.

Too late, Don. Too late by a very big mile.

He is trying to shut the barn door after the work horse of the North American economy is gone. (I include all of North America. Mexico has lost 300 factories to China in the last year. Even they can’t compete against slave labor.)

We are now witnessing the limits of Free Trade Capitalism. One-way trade without boundaries or limits—a process that protects violators of international agreements at the expense of domestic jobs.

There is no amount of automation, innovation or invention that will overcome the advantage of indentured workers, easily replaced at no cost when they wear out or die. There is no cost of providing for safe places to work or health or environment, etc. There is no competition or level playing field or fairness at all when these are the rules we have to work under.

When will Mr. Manzullo and others in the federal government get off the lap of Chinese leaders and stand up to countries that extract our jobs, our wealth and our futures, all while cheating the rules, using underhanded monetary policies and encouraging the theft of intellectual property?

I want a leader to insist that more measures than money be used for trade. I want workers’ rights to be a factor, child labor to be a factor, forced abortions to be a factor, conscripted and prison labor to be a factor, environmental safety to be a factor. This would be the weight that would balance the equation. When we find partners equal to us—then free, uninhibited trade shall ensue. We must stop mistaking capitalism for democracy. We must stop mistaking those who would destroy us for those who might help us.

Finally, someone, I hope, has taken notice that the biggest trend in business is to export expensive white-collar jobs to Third World countries, accountants to India, help lines to Ireland, software development to Russia, etc. Basically, if you can do your job from home or telecommute, then your job is ripe for export.

Why not hire a foreign architect, lawyer, claims adjuster, medical records, copy setters, etc…? IBM is actively looking to export 5,000 I.T. and white-collar jobs this year and into the future. If you think UnFair Trade only affects the poor factory worker, please don’t be surprised by your pink slip.

Manzullo and others can beat back the sea change with their brooms, but it will do little to stem the flow of jobs and the future of our country until they deeply change the meaning of free and fair trade.

John Kutsch is a resident of Harvard. He was a former Democratic candidate for the 16th Congressional District seat.

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