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I’ve long urged trade policy critics (including Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump) to stop questioning the intelligence of globalization cheerleaders. Especially, when we’re talking about offshoring-happy multinational corporations and their hired guns in Washington, I’ve insisted, they’ve known exactly what they’ve been doing – pushing the trade and other international economic policies likeliest to reward the companies with the biggest profits in the shortest time-frame.

True, the longer-term effects have produced losses for many of them – especially since the immense imbalances resulting from these policies helped trigger the financial crisis and ensuing Great Recession, which at least initially hit earnings and stock prices. But charges of stupidity don’t seem valid even in this regard, since most of the American economic system’s incentives discourage long-term thinking.

A new U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, however, could justify a rethink. For it’s a great example of an organization ignoring evidence that’s been staring it in the face for literally decades – and that’s become especially glaring recently. Moreover, it inadvertently validates the claim made by American politicians like Trump that major numbers of manufacturing jobs could be returned to the United States if Washington only mustered the will to do so.

The Chamber, of course, has been one of the most powerful mainstays of the overlapping corporate offshoring and cheap labor lobbies, and this morning released a study bemoaning the worldwide growth of what’s often called “techno-protectionism.” That is, more and more countries have been working harder and harder to promote their own domestic information technology industries through a variety of new regulations that the Chamber rightly notes have cloaked simple beggar-thy-neighbor aims in national security rationales.

In the Chamber’s words, “some national governments, by intentionally or unintentionally defining security concerns in an overly broad manner, are applying intense pressure on the [tech] sector to localize rather than globalize.” And the group has echoed numerous charges that China is a prime culprit.

The Chamber’s long list of these practices underscores points that I and many others have been making since even before trade and offshoring became hot-button issues. The first is that such non-tariff barriers, which are excruciatingly difficult for trade agreements to deal with meaningfully, have become much more important obstacles to international commerce than more easily identifiable and therefore vulnerable tariffs and quotas. The second is that, since foreign governments with secretive bureaucracies can erect and maintain these barriers much more effectively than the more transparent United States, trade agreements with these governments usually shaft America.

Yet groups like the Chamber have typically ignored or dismissed these concerns – largely because they produce so much overseas, and care so little about whether their products are Made in America or not. Indeed, their foreign factories and other facilities actually often benefit from the host countries’ subsidies and various forms of protection.

That’s why the Chamber so enthusiastically greeted the announcement late last year that Washington had negotiated a new global agreement to free up further trade in technology products. This broadening of a 1997 pact – the Information Technology Agreement, or ITA – was hailed by the Chamber as “welcome news for American companies and the workers they employ” because it would “end tariffs on approximately $1 trillion worth of high-tech products….” Consistent with my above analysis, none of the dozens of non-tariff barriers that distorted this tech trade was even mentioned.

Less than a year later, we see the Chamber complaining that these largely hidden trade barriers have not only remained so influential, but are spreading so rapidly that they “are now threatening to slow or even reverse” the “globalization of the [tech] sector.” Translation: Despite supposed landmark achievements like the ITA (and the long string of similar deals that preceded it starting with the North American Free Trade Agreement) protectionism worldwide has both remained in place and become so widespread that it’s now handcuffing self-styled global businesses that had hitherto boasted of their power to ignore borders.

In this respect, the Chamber is echoing a recent lament of General Electric’s CEO, who complained that localization pressures have become so pervasive and intense that his giant firm has no choice but to bow before them.

As I pointed out in covering this corporate confession, the global economy features one immense exception to this spreading protectionism – the United States. And ironically, it’s America that has the world’s greatest store of the kind of leverage needed to pursue this strategy successfully. Trump-ian politicians have been saying nothing more remarkable than that this leverage should be used. Reports like the Chamber’s today can only make it that much more difficult for Trump-ian opponents to dismiss this idea as delusional.

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