Noam Chomsky on Free Trade

Political Activist


NAFTA hurts working people in US, Mexico, & Canada

One goal of NAFTA was to "lock Mexico in" to the so-called reforms of the 1980s, which created billionaires at about the same rate as they enhanced poverty. These "reforms" are the great benefit to the US owners, managers, and investors, though not to working people. NAFTA was one of those rare treaties that managed to harm the working populations in all countries participating: Canada, the US, and Mexico. The US labor movement had proposed alternatives that would have benefitted the workforce in all 3 countries. Similar proposals were developed by Congress's Office of Technology Assessment (since disbanded). The proposals were never entered to the political agenda, and were even barred from the media.

The attraction of NAFTA for North American elites, the business press reported, was "precisely that it would tie the hands of the current future governments" of Mexico with regard to the economic policy. In brief, NAFTA, duly imposed by executive power, in opposition to the public will.

Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p. 35-36 , Jun 1, 2010

US "level playing field" means "kicking away the ladder"

Historically, trade liberalization has been the outcome rather than the cause of economic development. From an extensive review, it is difficult to find another case where the facts so contradict dominant theory [as the theory] concerning the negative impact on protectionism. The conclusion holds into the twentieth century, when other forms of market interference become more prominent.

The "dominant theory" is that of the rich and powerful, who have regularly advocated liberalization for others, and sometimes for themselves as well, once they have achieved a dominant position and hence are willing to face competition on a "level playing field"--that is, one sharply tilted in their favor. The stand is sometimes called "kicking away the ladder" by economic historians: first we violate the rules to climb to the top, then we kick way the ladder so that you cannot follow us, and we righteously proclaim: "Let's play fair, on a level playing field."

Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p. 76 , Jun 1, 2010

Worldwide protests against corporate globalism

Q: What consequences do you foresee for the Seattle movement? Do you think it will suffer as a result, or is it possible that it will gain momentum?

A: It is certainly possible, for the worldwide protests against corporate globalization, which--again--did not begin in Seattle. Such terrorist atrocities are a gift to the harshest and most repressive elements on all sides, and are sure to be exploited--already have been in fact--to accelerate the agenda of militarization, regimentation, reversal of social democratic programs, transfer of wealth to narrow sectors, and undermining democracy in any meaningful form. But that will not happen without resistance, and I doubt that it will succeed, except in the short term.

Source: 9-11, by Noam Chomsky, p. 19 , Nov 1, 2001

Terrorists don't care about globalization, despite media

Q: Assuming that the terrorists chose the World Trade Center as a symbolic target, how does globalization and cultural hegemony help create hatred towards America?

A: This is an extremely convenient belief for Western intellectuals. It absolves them of responsibility for the actions that actually do lie behind the choice of the World Trade Center. Was it bombed in 1993 because of concern over globalization and cultural hegemony? Was Sadat assassinated 20 years ago because of globalization?

A few days ago the "Wall Street Journal" reported attitudes of rich and privileged Egyptians who were bitterly critical of the US for objective reasons of policy, which are well-known to those who wish to know. Is that concern over "globalization," McDonald's, and jeans? Attitudes in the street are similar, but far more intense, and have nothing at all to do with these fashionable excuses. These excuses are convenient. Bin Laden himself has probably never even heard of "globalization."

Source: 9-11, by Noam Chomsky, p. 30-31 , Nov 1, 2001

WTO is just another tool for US intervention abroad

    Control over food supplies by foreign corporate giants is well underway, and with the WTO agreement on telecommunications signed and delivered, financial services are next in line. Summarizing, the expected consequences of the victory for “American values” at the WTO are:
  1. A “new tool” for far-reaching US intervention into the internal affairs of others;
  2. The takeover of a crucial sector of foreign economies by US-based corporations;
  3. Benefits for business sectors and the wealthy;
  4. Shifting of costs to the general population;
  5. New and potentially powerful weapons against the threat of democracy [i.e., people over the elites].
In short, the world that the US seeks through international institutions is one based on the rule of force. No problem arises when communications, finance, and food supplies are taken over by foreign (mainly US) corporations. Matters are different, however, when trade agreements and international law interfere with the projects of the powerful.
Source: Profit Over People, by Noam Chomsky, p. 71-75 , Mar 1, 1997

Trilateral world view means Latin America belongs to the US

From the early 1970s, the world has been drifting into what’s called tripolarism or trilateralism-3 major economic blocs that compete with each other. Thr first is a yen-based bloc with Japan at its center and the former Japanese colonies at the periphery. There’s a lot of nonsense written about how the fact that Japan became a major competitor proves how honorable we are. The actual policy option was to restore Japan’s empire, but now all under our control.

The second major competitive bloc is based in Europe and is dominated by Germany. It’s taking a big step forward with the consolidation of the European Common Market.

The third bloc is the US-dominated, dollar-based one. It was recently extended to incorporate Canada, our major trading partner, and will soon include Mexico and other parts of the hemisphere, by “free trade agreements” designed primarily for the interests of US investors and their associates. We’ve always assumed that Latin America belongs to us by right.

Source: What Uncle Sam Really Wants, by Noam Chomsky, p. 25-28 , Jan 13, 1991

Free trade is all about corporate subsidies

Nobody in the corporate world or government takes free trade seriously. The parts of the economy tht are able to compete internationally are primarily the state-subsidized ones: capital-intensive agriculture, high-tech industry, etc.

The government has the public pay for research and development and provides a state-guaranteed market for waste production. If something is marketable, the private sector takes it over. That system of public subsidy and private profit is what is called free enterprise.

Source: What Uncle Sam Really Wants, by Noam Chomsky, p. 13 , Jan 13, 1991

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Page last updated: Oct 28, 2021