Trade Compliance

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Battling Against Free Trade “Superstitions”

Posted October 22, 2014

Ostensibly promoting his new book The Churchill Factor, London Mayor Boris Johnson devoted most of his column in The Telegraph this week to a forceful defense of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) against the attacks of critics he scathingly dismisses as “Left-wing misery-guts anti-globalisation campaigners.”
Free Trade-Good-v-Evil
“There is absolutely nothing not to like about the TTIP. As Churchill might have said, it is altogether un-sordid,” asserts Johnson channeling the thoughts of his biographical subject. And yet virtually the only commentary we have been offered is absurdly hostile and misinformed.”

Heaping scorn on the recent protests across Europe over the EU-U.S. trade deal, Johnson dismisses anti-free trade activists as “numskulls” who are “talking rubbish”; adding that, “Almost every single objection to the current proposals is based on pure superstition.” The fears about genetically modified organisms are, for example, according to Johnson, nothing but “a load of semi-religious mumbo-jumbo.”

Michael Taube is another pundit fighting back against “left wing myths” and “superstitions” about free trade. Writing this week in the conservative leaning Washington Times, he unloads on liberals “who blast away at capitalism, liberty and freedom with a reckless nature — and a feckless misunderstanding of these important economic principles.”

Taube’s argument differs somewhat from that of Johnson, however, in maintaining that “free trade” has never been actually realized and unqualified success therefore has been stymied by state control and regulation from the “government’s overextended reach into the free-market economy.” Truly unfettered free trade would, Taube loftily contends, “give Americans an equal opportunity to succeed in the free-market economy, and achieve their hopes and dreams.”

Well, perhaps. But meanwhile, pro-free trade advocates have to contend with the “panic” and “fears” of the anti-TTIP protesters that Johnson says include such things as worries about an impending flood of “American chickens bathed in chlorine and so genetically modified as to possess three drumsticks per bird” and “pale and tasteless American cheese that has been processed to the point of macrobiotic extinction.” Continuing his exaggeration more than a bit, he goes onto to claim that protesters “say that the notion of mutual free investment will lead to McDonald’s being given the catering for the NHS, while JR Ewing will arrive in the Home Counties shouting yee-hah and insisting on his right to frack the place to kingdom come.”

Presumably, somewhere in between the two extreme ideological polarities on the issue of free trade there’s a sensible middle ground to be arrived at, and Johnson deftly puts his finger on where such consensus might possibly be discovered: “The tariff barriers between us are now low – down to 3 per cent. But it is the non-tariff barriers that need to be blown away, the fiddly stipulations that are furtively used to keep out foreign competition.”