In Defense of True Free Trade
[Reprinted from Land & Liberty, Summer
2001, with the title "ATTAC on Free Trade"]
THE AUTHOR was the
chairman of the Danish Justice Party from 1967-74, 1975-78 and
1982-84; a Member of Ihe Danish Parliament from 1973-75 and
1977-81; a Member of Ihe European Parliament from 1978-79 and
1984-94; and he is a member of the Danish Henry George Society.
IT IS HARDLY by chance that ATTAC originates from the European
Union's most protectionist country's most protectionist political
party: the French Social Democracy, and was launched by the
semi-official publication Le Monde Diplomatique. It would be
interesting to know who finances the giant public relation budget of
the ATTAC movement.
It is not recommendable to give up Free Trade. Everybody understands
the advantages of free exchange of goods and services. If combined
with effective control of monopolies -- without which we could not
have liberalism -- Free Trade would prevent any exploitation, benefit
the consumers, and provide for poor countries' access to the markets
of the rich countries. The question is whether the rich countries,
among which EU, want to do so?
If in reality the purpose is to exclude Free Trade from the agenda
because one's shady endeavours are to support the protectionist
interests of the big business and the trade unions then it is clever
lo seek another agenda than the one supporting the interests of the
developing countries: TRADE, not AID. As it is known: ATTACk is better
IN SEATTLE the WTO countries negotiated progress for World Trade. Who
blocked these negotiations? First and foremost the EU and USA; they
would not give access for the poor countries to enter their home
markets. Today the situation is that EU blocks another round of
negotiation about the liberalizalion of trade, in spite of the fact
that analysis proves that liberalization of the access for the Third
World to our markets would provide results much more effective than
all development aid.
WTO is not the villain of the piece, but its procedures have lo be
changed in order to end the fact that WTO is run exclusively by the
protectionist and other monopolist interests of the rich countries.
First and foremost I am thinking of the patents for life and
vegetation that threaten the poor world. We have to give WTO the
authority and economic resources to explore, enlighten about and
actively fight against the global monopolies.
A decade ago I heard the then chairman of the commission, the French
socialist Jacques Delors, promote taxation of speculative capital
transactions. That could be all right, but will not at all solve the
global problems of poverty. It will never substitute for Free Trade.
Neither can it substitute for implementation of renewed respect for
all peoples' rights to natural resources and publicly created values.
That means: foundation -- under the United Nations of an international
land reform institute, and abstention from attacks against all
peoples' rights to own and use the resources of their country such as
energy, metal, agricultural soil, wealth from the sea or the
enormously increasing values of real estate in the developing areas
all over the world. When -- for instance -- the World Bank forced
Mexico to abolish its constitutional provision guaranteeing for the
people their rights to the land of Mexico, it was capitalistic
exploitation beating ATTAC's agenda. Apart from that, of course, we
have to release the debt of the poor countries, tax-free loopholes
have to be closed whenever they are found around the globe.
More problematic is, however, the claim for ethical control of the
investments of pension funds. As a member for 10 years of the European
Parliament's commission on External Economic Relations. I witnessed a
bad alliance between proteciionists and environmentalists who jointly
blocked poor countries' access lo the markets of the EU, pleading "dumping"
either environmental or concerning wages or trade unions; though poor
countries outside the EU have no possibilities if they are not allowed
to use these parameters of competition. The result was not long in
coming: EU's trade surplus is enormous compared to all poor countries
in the world.
Will ATTAC take action against these problems? Will it fight against
the rich countries' reactionary protectionism and EU's dumping of
their excessive agricultural production that is damaging the poor
countries in the world market? Considering ATTAC's intellectual and
political originators: I do not believe it for a moment!
Will ATTAC turn the public attention to the rights of people to their
natural and publicly created resources? The currency transactions
attacked by ATTAC occur from a situation in which gigantic speculation
in real estate made the artificially/politically decided rates of
exchange in Asia easy games for speculation. By taxation of
speculative currency transactions one takes a stand only on the
symptoms of a much bigger problem of international importance.
I should be pleased if ATTAC would address this problem in a serious
way. But what would the intellectual (and economical) masterminds and
wire-pullers behind the stage say then?