The WTO is Not Free Trade
Since I just mentioned Dean Baker’s Beat the Press blog, here is a short but sweet commentary on the loaded term “free trade”. Dean has been making this point for years, perhaps too often for my tastes, but it is a good one and worth repeating in the context of the Doha collapse:
It would be nice if reporters were forced to read what they write before it appears in the paper. What do they mean when they say â€œfree trade?â€
What makes increasing patent and copyright protection (an essential part of recent U.S. trade agreements) free trade? These are government granted monopolies. Isnâ€™t that obvious? Yes, they serve a purpose in providing incentives for innovation and creative work, but ALL forms of protection serve a purpose, that doesnâ€™t mean that they are not protectionism.
Also, it really is infuriating that reporters cannot recognize the protectionism that sustains relatively high salaries for professionals and reporters. If we had free trade for doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. we would have standardized licensing requirements so that smart students anywhere in the world would have the same opportunity to train and get a job in these professions in the United States as a kid born in New York. Any economics reporter who thinks we have this situation now should be fired on the spot. Obviously, they have no idea what they are talking about.
Also, if we had free trade in reporters, I could start a newspaper and start filling its staff with smart, energetic reporters from developing countries who would be very happy to work for much lower salaries than the current staff. If we had free trade, I would not have to claim that I could not find a qualified citizen for these jobs. I could just say that I hired reporters from the developing world because they would work for less. This is illegal now and as a result, reporters earn higher salaries than would otherwise be the case. Again, if an economics reporter cannot understand how they benefit from this protectionism, they are not qualified for their job.