Free Trade Reconsidered

By Wayne Lutton
Published in The Social Contract
Volume 3, Number 2 (Winter 1992-1993)
Issue theme: "The role of the churches in population growth, immigration and the environment"




John P. Cregan, editor

Washington,D.C. U.S. Industrial Council

Educational Foundation

201 pp., $8.95 (paperback)

On December 17, President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Mulroney, and Mexican President Salinas signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Hailed as an 'Enterprise for the Americas' initiative, President-elect Clinton promised to usher it through Congress.

Others are less sanguine about NAFTA's impact. William Gill, of the American Coalition for Competitive Trade, describes free trade as 'this myth which has now assumed the status of theology; it is so firmly fixed in the modern mind that no one dares speak out against this hungry Moloch as it insatiably eats up our plants, our jobs, our research, our towns, our cities, our present and our future.'

America Asleep is the most informative discussion of trade policy published in many years. In his Introduction to the collection of ten essays, USICEF president John Cregan argues that in the post-Cold War world, 'the United States must undergo a paradigm shift in thinking about the world economy of today. The old paradigm, manifested by economic pax Americana, free trade vs. protec-tionism, capitalism vs. socialism, laissez-faire vs. state planning, hightech vs. labor intensive in short, the foundation upon which rests our laissez-faire approach to the global economic arena is no longer viable.'

Economic historian William Hawkins reviews the development of free trade ideology from Ricardo and Adam Smith to Alexander Hamilton and today's New Mercantilism. He emphasizes that the basis of American economic strength has been a large and protected domestic market, supplemented by advantageous foreign trade agreements. Hawkins reminds his readers that, 'the record shows that no nation reached the first rank of industrial power, or managed to stay there, by adopting free trade.'

Alfred Eckes, former head of the International Trade Commission during the Reagan Adminis-tration, discusses American foreign trade policy from John Adams to George Bush. He shows how the outline for economic development encompassed by Henry Clay's 'American System' was put into practice by Lincoln, McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt, who stated, 'Thank God I'm not a Free Trader!' Considering U.S. trade policy for the New World Order, Professor Eckes contends that,'the essential conditions for free trade do not exist, except as a mirage in the minds of international economists and foreign lobbyists. The world is not peaceful, but dangerous and unstable. Trade is not reciprocal... it is one sided and unbalanced.'

Kevin Kearns, a former director of the State Department's Office of Defense Trade Policy, contrasts U.S. adherence to free trade to Japanese and German policies that allow them to target key foreign companies and industries, while protecting their own critical sectors. Edward Walsh, senior editor of Sea Power, provides a sobering look at our 'technology drain' and loss of market share in such areas as robotics, microlithography, and semi-conductors. Businessman Boone Pickens follows with his firsthand account of how Japanese keiretsus (cartels) operate.

Syndicated columnist Samuel Francis, an historian and former national security analyst, places free trade dogma within the larger context of international globalist impulses. He points out why supporters of this new economic order promote U.S. immigration policies that favor the admission of Third World natives, while fueling demands for 'multi-culturalism.'

Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley (R-Md) decries recent foreign trade policies which have led to the 'hollowing out' of our industrial base. Former USBIC president Anthony Harrigan draws attention to the revolving-door network of U.S. government officials and foreign lobbyists, noting that many of the most vocal public advocates of free trade are on the payroll of foreign companies and governments.

Abraham Lincoln predicted that free trade would lead to 'want and ruin among our people.' America Asleep suggests that 'Honest Abe' was right.

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