Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jekyll & Hyde Obama: Protectionist or Free Trader?

By Dana Gabriel

NAFTA partners may be confused, as to the mixed signals being sent by President Barack Obama in regards to trade. The Buy-American provision which was part of the stimulus package, alarmed Canadians, as well as many others. The Obama administration managed to outrage Mexico by ending a cross-border trucking program. Like most politicians, Obama is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. He is pandering to some of his core support while at the same time, trying to uphold the U.S. as a global leader in trade initiatives.

When the Buy-American provision was first announced, both Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon, warned of the dangers of protectionism. Although the language that passed as part of the stimulus package was softened, Canadian officials remain concerned. Canada has every right to be worried about American protectionism considering that 80% of its exports flow across the border. During his February trip, Obama reassured Canadians that he was committed to NAFTA and that the U.S. would honor all its trade obligations. He also discussed plans to place NAFTA’s labour and environmental side deals into the main body of the agreement, which in actuality would accomplish very little. This is a far cry from a man who at one time, threatened to tear up the trade accord. He has all but abandoned his promise to truly fix NAFTA and make it fairer for American workers.

The House Democrat fiscal 2009 spending bill, effectively ended the controversial Bush administration cross-border trucking program. As a result, Mexico retaliated by slapping tariffs on many U.S. imports. Allowing Mexican long-haul trucks full access into the U.S. is a provision of NAFTA. Many contend that it is because of protectionism, not safety and security concerns, that Mexican trucks have been restricted across the border. Before his scheduled trip to Mexico in mid April, Obama could propose a new trucking program that attempts to satisfy both the Mexican government, as well as critics of the former cross-border project. Considering the growing drug violence in Mexico, this might not be an appropriate time to introduce any type of cross-border initiative.

In early March, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced that the Obama administration would work with Congress to establish benchmarks, so that long-stalled free trade agreements with Colombia and South Korea could move forward. Obama opposed both trade deals during the presidential election campaign last year. At that time, he said that he wanted to see a reduction in violence against trade unionists in Colombia. He also wanted to renegotiate some provisions of the South Korean trade agreement which he felt were bad for U.S. automakers and other manufacturers. There might not be an auto industry left to protect. Obama has taken money that could have been used to stimulate the real economy and instead has given it to the bankers. This is a Wall Street takeover. Through all the bailouts and corporate looting, the only path being set forth by which the U.S. economy can recover is through more globalization.

Just ahead of the G-20 Summit, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, warned against de-globalization, protectionism and economic nationalism. He advocated reshaping globalization as a solution to the worldwide economic crisis. At the G-20 Summit in London, leaders pledged to work together to rebuild confidence and trust in the financial system and kickstart international trade. As a result, a new Financial Stability Board has been established to unite regulators. The IMF has been given more money and power in order to boost the economies of the world. Obama proclaimed that the summit represented a turning point in global economic recovery. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown called it the start of a new global financial architecture and said that out of the economic crisis, a New World Order is emerging. The U.S. has been used as an engine for world government and their markets will now play a lesser role in the global economy, as they surrender more sovereignty to this new system.

Obama is a tool of the global elite and giving him labels only serves to provide him with cover. He is not looking out for the best interests of American workers, the poor or the middle class. He is of the bankers, by the bankers and for the bankers. Many of the same people who are responsible for past failed U.S. economic policies, have been rewarded with a spot in the Obama administration. They will finish what they started—the destruction of the U.S. economy. This amounts to economic terrorism. We stand on the dawn of a new global economic order. Will the American people be suckered and buy into this system?

Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, as well as other issues.
Contact: beyourownleader@hotmail.com