Thursday, August 9

Hillary Clinton's coded message on US trade policy

Pundita did not watch the AFL-CIO sponsored Democratic presidential candidate debate at Soldier Field. So I turned to Dave Schuler's handy summary of what the candidates said about trade issues. Pundita perked to full attention at these words by Hillary Clinton:
I believe in smart trade. I’ve said that for years. Pro-American trade. Trade that has labor and environmental standards, that’s not a race to the bottom but tries to lift up not only American workers but also workers around the world.
Given the context in which she used the term, Clinton clearly intended "smart trade" to be coded language for the fair trade movement. So why didn't Clinton just say "fair trade?"

Probably because the fair trade movement has already been flagged as an attempt at globalizing anti- 'social dumping' measures in certain EU countries. Probably because the American rank-and-file union members that Clinton addressed didn't want to hear about some global movement; they wanted to hear about measures to protect American labor against foreign competition.

So who was Hillary Clinton really addressing with her coded message? She was specifically talking to US labor leaders who are working on bringing US unions into the globalized labor union movement.

What does the globalized union movement mean for the American rank and file? Read (or re-read) the Washington Post article I quoted in April to glean several details. But in one long sentence: it means that a US trade deal will be tied to demands made by labor unions in the country or countries that want to sign the deal with the USA, and that US labor unions must align their policy with the foreign labor demands.

It's a way for foreign unions to use American trade negotiations to pressure their government into accepting their labor demands. So, just as the WTO Doha round aimed to graft aid to developing countries onto trade deals, the global fair trade movement aims to graft environmental, standard of living, and a host of other non-trade issues onto trade deals. And the USA is the number one target of the global fair trade movement because of American trade clout.

Is there anything fundamentally wrong with the attempt to use US trade negotiations as a means to improve the lot of the world's downtrodden workers? Not if this were 1970. Today it goes against the American worker to tag US trade negotiations to the plight of workers in other countries. That's because the US worker is now in direct competition with governments, such as China's, that won't sign up for anti- social dumping measures.

I don't wish to single out Hillary Clinton as the only Democrat presidential candidate pushing the fair trade movement; a reading of Dave's list of candidate quotes suggests they're all pushing a US trade policy that gives precedence to fair trade issues in US trade negotiations.

However, Clinton doesn't want her position to be fully understood by the majority of her American audience. Yet you may trust that leaders of the anti- social dumping movement in the European Union and organizers for globalized unions had no problem decoding her message.

Now do you understand why Pundita dragged her readers through lectures on social dumping? If you yawned through the explanations in 2006 better go back and re-read:

Do you suffer from dandruff, halitosis or social dumping?

Run for your life! Social dumping arrives on American shores!

I note that labor rank and file aren't the only ones missing Hillary Clinton's message. Last night on his CNBC show, Kudlow & Co., Larry Kudlow -- a big defender of free trade -- introduced Joe Biden as a "conservative Democrat." When Kudlow asked Biden about his stand on free trade, Biden repeated Clinton's "Labor . . . that’s not a race to the bottom but tries to lift up not only American workers but also workers around the world," almost word for word -- and managed to pass it off to Kudlow as a support for free trade. Better learn the code, Mr Kudlow. Biden was talking about fair trade, not free trade.

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