More globalization, please ...

News & Politics

It’s important to distinguish between a progressive call for self-governance and the knee-jerk fear of losing sovereignty that drives the reactionaries like Pat Buchanan. Not only do we have nothing to fear from multilateralism, we should embrace it.

The answer is more globalization, not less.

A good way of thinking about it is in terms of global "rule sets" -- a phrase thrown about by some international relations scholars. The rule set created by global investors has gotten far ahead of the rule sets for the rest of society. There are international labor standards, just as there are standards under the WTO for intellectual property protection. But when a shipment of goods produced with sweatshop labor arrives on our doorstep, there's little we can do about it. If a shipment of name-brand knock-offs arrives the same day, we can confiscate it under WTO rules. There's a disincentive under one rule set, the other is essentially pretty words.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the idea behind today's "free-trade" deals. But we need rule sets protecting labor and the environment and promoting human rights, and we need to be able to enforce them as effectively as the protections investors have developed over the past 25 years.

Trade deals impact everyone, but not everyone who has a stake has a seat at the table. When they do, we'll be able to hammer out international agreements that actually do what the proponents of the WTO system have been promising but not delivering.

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