Free T(i)rade

The CEO of UPS was a featured speaker at the Americas Competitiveness Forum in Atlanta earlier this week, and the Wall Street Journal was there to record some of his remarks.

Declaring that existing free trade agreements were the key to “robust U.S. and global recoveries”, the speaker said that even more must be done to “defeat the tyranny of protectionism” and eliminate trade barriers, and that so-called “Buy America” provisions included in the 2009 federal economic stimulus package should be abolished. He also said that Congress should approve trade deals that the U.S. has already negotiated with South Korea, Columbia and Panama, and that he was “deeply disappointed” in the lack of progress on a new pact with South Korea.

The CEO is currently a member of the President’s Export Council and is quoted as saying that, “In the halls of Congress, compelling arguments for trade are overwhelmed by noisy and heated attacks on globalization.” He said he was optimistic, however, that “open season on trade is over” now that the recent mid-term elections have passed, “and free traders can safely come out of hiding,” adding that it was possible for the U.S. to achieve the Export Council’s stated goal of doubling U.S. exports from about $ 1.6 trillion to more than $ 3 trillion by the year 2015.

He’s dreaming – or worse. He’s spouting the same hogwash we heard from Nixon and Kissinger in the early 1970s when they “opened up China” for U.S. exports. Americans, they assured us, would get rich supplying a billion anxious Chinese consumers with American-made products. It was a slam-dunk kind of a deal, they said – and it sure was. For Mr. Nixon, Mr. Kissinger, and several thousand CEOs. But for the majority? “Let ’em eat cake!” as someone supposedly once said.

We haven’t been exporting goods, of course – we’ve been exporting jobs – and the chickens have come home to roost. Few Americans saw the arrogance and greed of our selfish leaders back then, and except for the few in Congress making “noisy and heated attacks on globalization”, few Americans now see the arrogance and greed of those “free traders” who have been “hiding”.

“Hiding”? This country has been taken over brazenly by those who have the most to gain by “free trade”. Free trade, or globalization – give it any name you like – has introduced abject poverty to millions of Americans. Because there are no longer trade barriers to protect us, million of U.S. citizens are now jobless, on food stamps, and on welfare assistance in some form or another.

“The tyranny of protectionism”, was the term used by that thoughtless CEO. On Nov. 12th the less-than-truckload carrier YRC announced that it was forced to close down 31 terminals throughout the country and lay off another 450 workers. Those closures also mean that less-than-truckload firms like UPS will pick up the marbles and see increases in volume and profits. Were you wondering why the UPS CEO favors free trade?

Only “protectionism” – like the Jones Act, and our patented containership – can create jobs and save this country. We need to revitalize our shipyards. Let those CEOs eat cake for a change.