Whom does free trade benefit? Will it help or hurt?

If you were an Ontario autoworker when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect, you likely saw your job shift to Mexico or a southern U.S. state in the redneck zone where “unions” is a curse word.

frank1 the words of then-U.S. presidential candidate Ross Perot, the “giant sucking sound” of jobs sliding south like oysters on the half shell at a seafood bar would quickly follow ratification of the well-hyped free-trade agreement.

“Free trade” has such a lovely ring to it. It evokes visions of capitalism at its finest. The all-wise marketplace promotes the worthy and shakes off the dreck without regard to national borders or trade-inhibiting tariffs. Adam Smith would be so in accord with it!

The market is all wise in the sense that demand is the answer to sourcing supply. It produces the right prices. It’s just full of wonders! That is, if you’re on the right side of the equation. The likelihood is that you’re not.

Canada’s Trade Minister has written the book on what could be seen as the horror of free trade. But she’s a good soldier in the optimistic regime of Justin Trudeau and if free trade is what appeals to him, that’s what Chrystia Freeland also rejoices in. She was recently jubilant over the trade agreement with China regarding Canada’s genetically modified canola, the marketing name for rapeseed that has been produced with much reduced quantities of heart-attack-causing erucic acid.

Freeland’s landmark book, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else tells the whole story in one long title. To wit: we haven’t got much of a chance.

So who will benefit from the wonders of free trade, aside from the few-as-possible huddled masses employed by the Plutocrats? Probably not you. Certainly not I.

The free-trade deals that are being bandied about aren’t about free anything. To a plutocrat or an oligarch we hoi polloi are here to serve.

Take the example of Britain’s Prince Phillip who has high ambitions for our benighted planet.

In Phillip’s universe the best possible resolution of the masses vis-à-vis the elites such as his own grandiose regal self is, as he famously postulated, their early massive demise.

The actual quote from His Highnie is: In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, to contribute something to solving overpopulation.

That, of course, means wiping out all but the richest of us since wealth is the dividing line between those who could afford the cure and the rest of us whose burials will make room for the elites and fertilize their mushrooms. There would be (it goes almost without saying) a contingent of hale and hearty peons to serve the needs and desires of Phillip, if he’s still kicking, and his genetically blessed cohorts.

A free-trade deal with the European common market (EEC) would find us struggling to compete with some EEBs—Europe’s economic basket cases—as competitors against the Canadian economy.

A free-trade agreement with China would satisfy some export sectors of our economy, like beef producers, but China’s slave-labour-scale production costs would likely hurt us worse than any benefits we’d derive from some few sectoral export advantages.

And whatever we make that they don’t yet make, they will soon make cheaper and more abundantly than we do. Very clever, these Chinese entrepreneurs, when propped up by a state that permits organ thieves and counterfeiters to thrive.

They will very likely buy up our resources and sell them back to us as products and compete with us in foreign trade using stuff that used to be ours.

The winners, as always, will be the plutocrats and oligarchs.

Canada is rich in resources and that’s a huge draw to exploiters. When a commodity such as timber can be shipped to a low-wage country and sold back to us as finished lumber at bargain prices why would we concern ourselves about making stuff here?

There is the danger of Prince Phillip’s envisioned depopulated world of elites, their caretakers and their body slaves becoming a reality, at least in some parts of the planet.

There are other alternatives His Highny hasn’t envisioned or given a damn about.

Things like  GAI—a guaranteed annual income—that enables people to thrive without painful sacrifices and devote themselves to pursuits of their choosing while those persons who want more would be able to work at more remunerative jobs that the economy and society needs.

Frank Touby