Free Trade Agreements: Selective Protectionism and Class


By Jeffrey Pavlak, Staff Editor

Last Wednesday, in the spirit of bipartisan comity, the House and Senate passed bilateral trade agreements with Colombia, Korea, and Panama. Bolstered by Republican votes, President Obama heralded passage as part of an effort to restore employment through export-based growth.  Yet each deal is built on the erroneous conceit that these are actually free trade deals. As Dean Baker notes in his new book, The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive, these compacts not only further protections for intellectual property but also insulate lawyers, doctors, and other professional service employees from direct foreign competition. In contrast, non-college educated workers will be placed into direct competition with workers in lower wage nations by the agreements. According to the Economic Policy Institute and the Joint Economic Committee, the Korea deal may cost 159,000 jobs (pdf) with the brunt borne by those without a college education.


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