Monday, April 7, 2008

Free Trade?????

Is it free trade? I really do not think so if we are locked into an agreement like NAFTA which we cannot alter. Or if that trade means we have to compromise our ideals, morals or laws.

Free trade with China has certainly cost us pet owners a lot. And mothers with children having to spend more time shopping for toys that are made here or guaranteed lead free.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. What about the thousands and thousands of jobs that are being outsourced to foreign countries? We are called protectionists if we even raise doubts about this ideal of a free world economy. It does sound like a neat thing. I would love to be able to get high quality Italian shoes on an equal footing as it were. But then Italy falls close to my expectations on its treatment of women and minorities. It cares about its seashores. It is not trying to whip Sweden into compliance. And most items I have purchased with the Made in Italy label have been of good quality.

I don't have those same feelings about hardly anything coming from China. And I can endorse the Made in Mexico label only on those things I know Mexico does well. Frankly, that is not electronics even if under the auspices of a United States firm. It still pays to be a bit careful about buying ceramics from their country because of their use of lead based glazes. But if I am faced with the choice of two products and one is made in China and another in Mexico I will opt for Mexico every time. I am close to not buying something I want if I can only get it made in China.

But those issues are not all there is to this Free Trade issue. It seems that the other countries are not playing fair. They are making items in prisons or giving money to companies so they can undercut the prices of products made here. And Free Trade seems to be only for major companies. As an artist my work purchased by someone in another country still faces major duties and tariffs. That does not sound free and open to me.

Both Democratic candidates are promising another look at the North American Free Trade Agreement but Bush is already advocating a free trade agreement with Columbia. It will cost us jobs and allow free trade only one direction. We need to look long and hard at these agreements in the future. If they hurt our citizens or endorse a way of life we cannot morally support then we should just say no.