PARTICIPANTS IN THE FORUM
, author of Dark Victory: The United States and Global Poverty (Food First), is executive director of the Bangkok-based Focus on the Global South (focusweb.org) and a professor of Public Administration at the University of the Philippines in Manila.
is the author of Buy American: The Untold Story of Economic Nationalism (Beacon); she teaches history at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
, co-author of the forthcoming Field Guide to the Global Economy (New Press), is assistant director for international economics in the public policy department of the AFL-CIO (www.aflcio.org).
, author of Workers in a Lean World (Verso), is director of Labor Notes (www.labornotes.org).
, Labor Secretary during Bill Clinton’s first term, is a professor of economic and social policy at Brandeis and the national editor of The American Prospect (www.epn.org/prospect.html).
, author of Has Globalization Gone Too Far? (Institute for International Economics), is professor of political economy at Harvard; he directs the political economy program of the university’s Center for International Development (www.cid.harvard.edu).
is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch (www.tradewatch.org).
, convener of the forum, is a Nation contributing editor. He is the editor of Left Business Observer and the author of Wall Street and A New Economy? (both Verso).
Once, not so long ago, trade was the province of policy wonks and special interests–and the experts and lobbyists liked it that way. No longer. Now it’s a hot political issue. One reason is the growth of trade; just 4 percent of GDP in the early fifties, it’s more than 13 percent today. Another is that international capital flows, ranging from productive pursuits like building factories to speculative ones like betting against national currencies, have grown even more strongly. And still another is that the areas covered by trade agreements have widened from traditional concerns with tariffs and quotas to cover labor, environmental and health regulations as well.
NAFTA was the first major trade fight, occurring at a time in the early nineties when downsizings were plentiful and new jobs were scarce. To many it looked like a scheme for greasing the departure of US manufacturing to cheaper, friendlier climes–Ross Perot’s famous “giant sucking sound.” A year after NAFTA took effect, a whole new trade regime came into being with the birth of the World Trade Organization in January 1995, replacing the much looser set of agreements that had regulated world trade since the late forties. The WTO has vast powers to adjudicate trade disputes and invalidate regulations it deems impediments to trade through “expert” tribunals meeting secretly in Geneva. In effect, it’s a form of world government with almost no popular accountability.