Just Merveilleux?

Life at № 42

The Economist’s Ode to Canada

A typical summer's day in Canada

A typical summer’s day in Canada. Instead of dogs Canadians normally have Polar Bears. 

“In this depressing company of wall-builders, door-slammers and drawbridge-raisers, Canada stands out as a heartening exception. It happily admits more than 300,000 immigrants a year, nearly 1% of its population—a higher proportion than any other big, rich country—and has done so for two decades. Its charismatic prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who has been in office a year, has welcomed some 33,000 Syrian refugees, far more than America has. Bucking the protectionist mood, Canada remains an eager free-trader. It was dismayed by the EU’s struggle to overcome a veto by Walloons on signing a “comprehensive” trade agreement that took seven years to negotiate (see page 38). Under Mr Trudeau, Canada is trying to make amends for its shameful treatment of indigenous peoples, and is likely to become the first Western country to legalise recreational cannabis on a national level.”

Full text: The Economist

Good article, short and to the point. It highlights the importance of free trade- something it seems is nowhere near as well explained and understood as it should be. Of course that’s very much the responsibility of politicians exploiting the issue. They blame manufacturing job losses on free trade when in fact that’s only part of the story. They forget to mention how manufacturing jobs started to decline in the 1950’s with (exceptional) advances in technology and automation. They also don’t explain how free trade has dramatically lowered the cost of just about everything in this world.

I’d love to know, if you’re against free trade, what are your reasons for it? And more importantly, what do you think of what the numbers show overall regarding the benefits of free trade?

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91 comments on “The Economist’s Ode to Canada

  1. Hariod Brawn
    November 15, 2016

    I don’t know what your definition of Free Trade is, Pink. Do you mean unregulated international trade? Most nations impose protectionist policies in some degree, perhaps via regulatory mechanisms, or subsidies. ‘Free Trade Areas’ exist, but I don’t think the term carries much meaning otherwise, and even then, it becomes more a synonym for a (partially) closed shop in trading terms. Cartels and slush funds are about the only ubiquitous, internationally recognised ways of trading. Global labour arbitrage suppresses workers’ wages, of course, so there’s an obvious reason why so-called Free Trade is not good news for many. It’s worth noting that the citizenry of the world’s two leading proponents of Neoliberalism, or Global Free Market Capitalism, both rejected it within months of each other as wage growth stagnated in the post Reaganomics and Thatcherism years.

    Good article: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-problem-george-monbiot

    Liked by 1 person

    • I mean tariff free…

      Like

    • Sorry I didn’t reply right away- wanted to read the article first. As a general concept what Monbiot says is interesting; the thing is (tariff) free trade is about optimization. It’s about people/regions/populations being able to focus on what they do best. Do we want tomatoes from Morocco and Spain or from Norway?
      Have you ever read The Wealth of Nations?
      “When the market is very small, no person can have any encouragement to dedicate himself entirely to one employment, for want of the power to exchange all that surplus part of the produce of his own labour… ” Adam Smith 1776
      The evidence for protectionism working is less than zero. It’s been tried all over the world (right and left wing governments) and has succeeded in nothing but raising prices (and benefiting minorities.)

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      • Hariod Brawn
        November 15, 2016

        I don’t notice any of the commentariat or political classes arguing for protectionism, and before anyone shouts ‘Trump!’, he certainly won’t be doing so once in office. He’s far more likely to do huge trade deals with China and forego the U.S. military presence in that region as the deal sweetener. Who do you think is arguing seriously for protectionism?

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      • The lot of them. Certainly Le Pen. Isn’t Corbyn also against free trade (agreements)? What do you suppose is the alternative other than tariffs/protectionism?

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      • Hariod Brawn
        November 15, 2016

        P.S. As regards Canada, then of course they’re quite disposed to protectionism as the U.S.A.’s cultural hegemony. No bad thing!

        Like

      • Hariod Brawn
        November 15, 2016

        P.P.S. That doesn’t make sense, but you know what I mean.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It did make sense 🙂 I could guess what you meant from the choice of words.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hariod Brawn
        November 15, 2016

        Corbyn’s an internationalist, an old school leftie. He argues against the neoliberalist position of minimalised regulation, instead arguing that markets need to be regulated for the protection of the citizenry. I think the case is proven on that. Le Pen may be using the rhetoric of Trump and Farage now, but if she wins in May(?), she’ll be pragmatic. Like all politician’s in power, she’ll be in the hands of the corporates.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’re wrapping things up unnecessarily. One can be for tariff free trade while also setting standards for that trade. That’s how we come to trade agreements 🙂 And that has dramatically improved the quality of life of many Europeans in the past 30 years.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hariod Brawn
        November 15, 2016

        We both agree on the flow of mutual trade and labour across borders, Pink, which is the only sane position to hold, and is on the whole beneficial to the citizenry – the arbitrage of labour and attendant suppression of wages notwithstanding. The question is, whether capital should be allowed to exploit that liberty in reifying efficiency above human need – that’s what unfettered Capitalism does. You’re talking about ‘setting standards’ for trade as if politicians are currently sufficiently empowered and disposed to doing so. And yet American corporations are all over Europe doing tens of billions in trade annually and sheltering their profits from taxation. More than that, because they’re not paying fair taxes, and because of their economies of scale and monopolist positions, they’re putting tax-paying SMEs and sole traders out of business. We’re currently at the point in Britain where Google, Starbucks, and the like make self-determined ‘offers’ of tax to the U.K. treasury, and only then after concentrated public outcry. It’s scandalous.

        Liked by 1 person

      • In essence your argument is that because some husbands beat their wives we should eliminate marriage as an institution?
        Google and Starbucks are abusing the system.

        Like

      • Hariod Brawn
        November 16, 2016

        ‘In essence’ you didn’t read the first sentence of my last comment.

        Like

  2. silenceofmind
    November 15, 2016

    Just because Canada does something isn’t a good reason for anything.

    Canada has the greatest hyper power in human history to its south to bail it out if anything goes wrong.

    Same with Europe except Europe is across the pond, as the Brits say.

    We in the United States have the Quakers as a historical example of what the leftist version of tolerance leads to.

    Back in the days of yore, the Quakers had built themselves a bustling, prosperous community in Pennsylvania.

    Out of kindness and naiveté, the Quakers allowed unrestricted immigration into their area of the world.

    Guess where the Quaker community is now?

    Exactly.

    Nowhere, because their righteous bit of civilization was overrun and the Quakers had to leave if they wanted to remain Quaker.

    Unrestricted and illegal immigration spells the death of any culture.

    That’s just common sense.

    Again, I caution Mr. Merveilleux from reading the nonsense written about leftist rags like the Economist and the New Yorker.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, SoM
      Nowhere is the word unrestricted mention- rather the article focuses on openness and the importance of trade.

      Like

    • metan
      November 15, 2016

      Bailing out Europe? The whole of Europe, or just select bits?

      I don’t think the US is really as much of a powerhouse in Europe as you think. Just ask Ukraine. Russia wanted the Crimean Peninsula, the US said no, but Russia just told them to piss off and mind their own business. And now one of Putin’s best buddies is being paid billions to build the Kerch Strait bridge…

      Liked by 2 people

    • metan
      November 15, 2016

      And your Quaker example isn’t really the best. They immigrated into different areas of the US in response to persecution from the Anglican Church, like current day refugees they were searching for peace and places to establish community but were persecuted by those with different beliefs. People being scared of their own beliefs being overrun I guess.

      Perhaps if you were looking for a culture to use as a negative example of not policing their borders jealously enough you should have used Native Americans.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. acflory
    November 15, 2016

    I’m no economist and I don’t understand the theory behind Free Trade, but…the reality of Free Trade Agreements seems to be skewed very much in favour of those nations with the greatest power i.e. the US and probably China. They get what they want, and smaller nations like Australia get a couple of measly concessions in exchange for having /our/ markets flooded by whatever the US wants to send our way. Given that food is something we disagree about, strongly, I don’t want to be forced to buy processed foods contaminated by GM.

    Another issue I have with FTA’s is that they specifically favour US corporations. These huge multinationals pay next to no tax [here], provide less jobs [than small to medium local businesses] and generally just create a second, more or less invisible layer of power in whichever country they colonize.

    Call me naive, ignorant even, but I cannot see what the benefits of globalisation truly are. You talk about countries being able to stick to the industries at which they excel – but that has been Australia’s problem all along. The industries at which we excel have nothing to do with industry. We have mineral resources and we have agriculture. We need to diversify, not crawl further into our complacent shell.

    I’m not saying every nation should try to be completely self-sufficient, but turning each nation into a monoculture or a cog in a production line of goods and services is asking for disaster. Even within nations, regions that specialize solely on one thing – e.g. mining or cattle raising or wheat or whatever – go bankrupt when that one thing suddenly up stakes and leaves town for greener pastures.

    The reason ordinary people like me don’t sing the praises of FTA’s is because we can only see the disadvantages, not the benefits. Ultimately, what is Free Trade trying to accomplish? A single world economy? A single world government?

    Unless equality is part of the Free Trade equation, I can’t see all nations benefiting equally. 😦

    Apologies for typos, have to go to work in a sec.

    Liked by 4 people

    • makagutu
      November 16, 2016

      You have expressed the same sentiments I have. Countries like USA and China are able offer large subsidies to their industries as compared to developing countries. Unless tariffs are put in place that checks the flooding of such markets with cheap imports, it will be hard to convince me of the benefits of FTA.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I can see how your point applies to Australia, which is, after all, basically its own continent. But even then there are other aspects worth looking at. Let’s put it differently…
      Let’s say there’s a hypothetical free trade agreement between Australia and Bangladesh. In practice that would probably destroy Australia’s (hypothetical) textile industry (which involved hypothetical low paying jobs), but at the same time it would raise tens of thousands of Bangladeshis out of poverty. Keeping in mind that Australia has the means, welfare system and conditions to retrain the hypothetical textile workforce- isn’t the overall result worthwhile?

      Liked by 1 person

      • acflory
        November 16, 2016

        Textile workers in Bangladesh, like the ones that were burned to death in a factory no first world worker would set foot in? Yes, those Bangladeshi might have jobs but only because they are paid an absolute pittance, forced to work very long hours, have unsafe working conditions and often include child labour. All of that makes them /cheap/. That is the whole point of outsourcing – incredibly cheap labour.
        So, the Bangladeshi textile workers get low paid jobs, Australian textile workers lose their jobs and the corporations that move their operations from Australia to Bangladesh make billions in profits.
        There is meant to be a ‘trickle down’ effect, and perhaps there is one – in Bangladesh. But it’s a very small effect because the country is so poor. Meanwhile, the Australian workers are on the dole. So free trade takes from the Australian workers, gives a tiny percent to the Bangladeshi workers and the corporations pocket the lion’s share.
        Sorry, but that doesn’t seem fair to me.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I know that’s how it looks on the surface, but ultimately free trade works as what we could call a natural form of socialism. You have to look at it as a complete cycle (albeit imperfect.)
        Conditions in Bangladesh today are what they were in Victorian times in much of Europe. As people are raised out of poverty, they fight for better conditions, and that (in general) leads to a better education and life for their children. That in turn leads to a more qualified workforce in the next generation. So it takes time, and there are bumps, but overall it’s the system that works best.
        One of the factors that’s still today a major contributor to the Spanish economy is the level of education of the younger generation (the most educated of all Spanish history.) Instead of immigrating to work in fields, they do so to work in hospitals, universities, banks. That whole change was made possible by free trade 🙂 And in one generation we’ll see that in Bangladesh the same way we’ve seen it in China.

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      • acflory
        November 16, 2016

        This is a duel of labels isn’t it? To an economist this may sound like the ‘trickle down effect’ or ‘progress’, but to me, it sounds like exploitation that /just happens to benefit a few people/.
        In physical terms, it’s like a dam that bursts, drowning the village beneath its walls. By the time the flood reaches the plains, however, it’s picked up enough nutrients to enrich the soil. But should we allow the dams to burst just so some good comes from all the deaths? Or should we find a better way, a way that provides nutrients to the soil without drowning the village?

        Liked by 1 person

      • A better way would be wonderful- but until then this imperfect system does do wonders. The interesting part is what starts out as exploitation quickly turns into a demand for rights now… In China it only took one generation. Meanwhile most of the (ideological) approaches taken for the past many hundreds of years have ended up failing miserably 🙂

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      • acflory
        November 16, 2016

        “A better way would be wonderful- but until then this imperfect system does do wonders.”

        Ugh…NO! I’m normally a great optimist and believer in the idea that something is always better than nothing but not in this case. Just the other day there was a documentary on TV here about the growing of tea in Kenya? [sorry, can’t remember] The tea was grown for a UK multinational, again, can’t remember its name, but it was providing very low paid work to the pickers…who included mostly women and children. The dilemna facing those who wanted to stop the exploitation of those children was that there were no structures in place to provide FOOD for those children, so agitating against the company would leave children to starve. Life and death Catch-22.

        That is the reality of your trickle down effect. We are not talking about a better system that is ‘nice to have’. We’re talking about profiting from something that is only one step up from slave labour. And don’t tell me that without that particular industry the kids would starve anyway because that industry supplanted whatever was there before so now there are no other opportunities.

        Worse still, if that company ever finds a way to automate the picking of tea, do you think they’ll continue employing those women and children just because the alternative is starvation?

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      • What was there before was probably as dubious or as precarious.
        Underemployment isn’t exactly the backbone of trickle down economics. Trickle down is (generally) when the government subsidizes companies through tax cuts et al.
        The important aspect is that an exploited class in the current world invariably leads to another generation of people in a better position. Especially in this age of technology. In 1975 less than 30% of people had television, now we’re over 95% 😉

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      • Hariod Brawn
        November 16, 2016

        Pink said: “free trade works as what we could call a natural form of socialism”. That’s so gigantically wrong there isn’t even sufficient space in the internet to explain why.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Because you’re looking at it in a vacuum. Take four steps back and it’s functioned better (to raise people out of poverty) than any policy ever proposed by the left or the right. Ever.

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      • Hariod Brawn
        November 16, 2016

        Pink, imperialist and colonialist trade is all much of the world has ever had, and which in the last century morphed into what we now call neoliberalism. You seem to have it in your head that any call to ameliorate the pernicious effects of unfettered capitalism with its global labour arbitrage is some hopelessly ideological, absurdly leftist, ranting.

        Do you not see that there may be very strong correlations between the rise of the Far Right in Europe, Brexit, and Trump, with that same unfettered capitalism’s effects upon the citizenry? It isn’t all about the Arab exodus.

        Of course international trade has produced wealth and a trickle-down in some degree. That’s why no one (hustings rhetoric aside) will abandon it. But it’s you, my friend, who seem unwilling to accept its failings, and as pointed out by every commenter here, including myself.

        But forget us, stop telling me that I’m “looking at it in a vacuum” and “wrapping things up unnecessarily” (whatever that means), and explain why you think regulating the corporate hegemony would be a bad thing.

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      • As I said, you’re conflating different things and approaching this from an ideological position.
        What do you was the primordial factor in reducing China and Brazil? Both previously states which were closed to international trade.
        And don’t change what I said. I said free trade can exist alongside regulation. Regulation and tariffs aren’t the same thing. Who do you think pays the tariffs in the end? Not boards of directors, it’s the consumer. That the means the poorest pay the highest price.

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      • Hariod Brawn
        November 16, 2016

        Pink, either I’m not explaining myself sufficiently (could be, they’re just blog comments), or you’re not reading (the meaning of) what I’m saying. But you’re right in that I’m approaching this from an ideological position, because Neoliberalism – which seems to be what you’re defending – is an ideology. I’m suggesting it’s a failing one, and you’re suggesting the opposite. That’s okay. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m not defending a political ideology. I’m defending an economic practice which most scientific studies demonstrate has raised the quality of life of the poor.

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      • Hariod Brawn
        November 16, 2016

        Ah, just released on The Guardian, a piece by Thomas Piketty:

        ‘The main lesson for Europe and the world is clear: as a matter of urgency, globalization must be fundamentally re-oriented. . . We must therefore implement international treaties enabling us to respond to these challenges and to promote a model for fair and sustainable development. . . Trade must once again become a means in the service of higher ends. It never should have become anything other than that. . . There should be no more signing of international agreements that reduce customs duties and other commercial barriers without including quantified and binding measures to combat fiscal and climate dumping in those same treaties. . . From this point of view, Ceta, the EU-Canada free trade deal, should be rejected. It is a treaty which belongs to another age. This strictly commercial treaty contains absolutely no restrictive measures concerning fiscal or climate issues. It does, however, contain a considerable reference to the “protection of investors”. This enables multinationals to sue states under private arbitration courts, bypassing the public tribunals available to one and all. . . In matters of fiscal dumping and minimum rates of taxation on corporation profits, this would obviously mean a complete paradigm change for Europe, which was constructed as a free trade area with no common fiscal policy. This change is essential. . . It is time to change the political discourse on globalization: trade is a good thing, but fair and sustainable development also demands public services, infrastructure, health and education systems. In turn, these themselves demand fair taxation systems. If we fail to deliver these, Trumpism will prevail.’

        i.e. What I said.

        https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/16/globalization-trump-inequality-thomas-piketty

        Liked by 1 person

      • As you know, I’m a Piketty aficionado. He’s for free trade. What he’s proposed for quite a long time is legislation to combat the abuses. When Google sets up a company in Luxembourg owned by a company in Dublin owned by a company in Bermuda owned by a company in Belize… that’s not free trade. If it were free trade, one would be enough. They’re successfully abusing the system.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Hariod Brawn
        November 16, 2016

        Right, I’m going to change my name to Hariod Piketty so you don’t argue with me so much. 😉 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • How’s Esme? Is she okay? Is there anything anyone can do?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hariod Brawn
        November 16, 2016

        That’s really sweet of you, and I noticed you asked after her on her blog. She’ll be really touched by your kindness and thoughtfulness. ❤ I daresay she'll post something in the coming weeks about her absence – perhaps at xmas.

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      • Is she having a child? Is she buying a child in the third world? I’ve considered doing that, but Mike won’t let me.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Hariod Brawn
        November 16, 2016

        Yes, she’s just nipped down to Somalia in her Lear Jet to pick one or two up. I’ll tell her to get an extra one for you. 😉 Actually, she’s just told me that she’ll feel all the better if you’d only give her that massive mansion you live in – true, she did. Can you be a sweetheart and email me your address? I know it’s #42 and could work it out somehow but, you know, it’s easier to ask. I promise I won’t turn up in the middle of night and hack you and your dahlias to pieces for being so argumentative today. It’s rather endearing actually, and I’m even worse at it than you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Can i have a baby pirate? With an eyepatch!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Hariod Brawn
        November 17, 2016

        I’ll ask her to get you one something like this little blighter:

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Helen Devries
    November 16, 2016

    My husband remembers Sri Lanka’s Sirimavo Bandaranaike who – outlawed by the West – banned imports. Fortunes were made by those who could manufacture the things that were previously imported and industry was stimulated without government assistance.
    A bit like needs must when the devil drives, but a counter to the notion that free trade is the all in all.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Arkenaten
    November 16, 2016

    I can state as fact that, the unregulated flood, ne , Tsunami, of Chinese clothes all but wiped out our local clothing industry. Factories were closing right left and centre. It was only saved from extinction when the government whose open-arms (Open Legs? ) policy being the ones responsible for the collapse in the first place, got its act together at the eleventh hour and wrote into law that all government (municipal and national) clothing contracts had to sourced locally.
    I believe at least some of the factories in the Eastern Cape were thrown a lifeline of sorts.
    I have no idea if our local manufacturing has recovered but it is a genuine surprise when comes across something with a SA label/flag.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That’s an interesting example. What proportion of the population were part of the clothing industry versus the total number of population who benefited from access to less expensive clothing? And in that sense, isn’t it the people with the lowest incomes who benefit from this sort of trade?

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      • Arkenaten
        November 16, 2016

        The problem was , and still is, that this supposed less expensive clothing never really materialized, as almost every store, from former quality merchandise at places like Woolworths (SA equivalent to Marks and Spencers) to cheap shops such as PeP stores now stocked Chinese made clothing.
        Years ago when the trade agreements were first hammered out, I sold a property to a Mozambican bloke who was an importer of footwear and he bought right across the price/quality range.
        All that appeared to have happened was that Chinese importers – who
        no doubt undercut local and other markets to gain a foothold – have simply replaced all other previous suppliers.
        From what I have seen on my forays to the Mall the clothes industry is utterly dominated by Chinese and Asian goods.

        I hear a similar story from my brother in law in Portugal.
        Although he also told me he has noticed a number of Chinese shops have closed as people are no longer buying; he says it is all to do with quality and like here, it’s not as easy to find locally made stuff as it once was.
        Out here, only the smaller boutiques could /can one find any degree of diversity.

        Liked by 4 people

  6. Arkenaten
    November 16, 2016

    This is an interesting article.
    Seems the recovery is doing better than I thought.

    http://www.businesspartners.co.za/knowledge-hub/manufacturing-fund/posts/south-african-textile-clothing-industry-overview-3252/

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory
      November 16, 2016

      Very interesting article, Arkenaten. Africa probably suffered the most from skewed trade agreements. Do you know if other African nations have clawed back their industries as well?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Arkenaten
        November 16, 2016

        Not a clue to be honest.
        However, I recall seeing an episode of Top Gear where they were in Nigeria I think?
        The country had the beginnings of a brand new road network courtesy of the Chinese.
        I wonder what sort of trade agreement was struck for that?

        Liked by 1 person

      • acflory
        November 16, 2016

        Hmm…yes…I’ve read that China has a big presence in Africa. I guess if Nigeria is getting new roads then they’re getting something from the deal. I just hope it’s enough for whatever it is that they’ve given up.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Arkenaten
        November 16, 2016

        I have heard that many Chinese traders out here in South Africa are not currently obliged to pay VAT.
        Don’t know how much truth there is in this statement, but on the receipts for goods bought at out local China Mall for out business there is no reference to VAT.
        And there are Chinese Malls springing up in most towns and cities out here.

        Like

      • acflory
        November 16, 2016

        Oh…..:( So the Chinese are creating markets for their goods outside the restrictive and probably protectionist US and European markets. Makes sense for them, but I’m not sure what that’ll do to your markets long term.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Arkenaten
        November 16, 2016

        Well, the article I linked suggested the government has/had a plan for the clothing industry. I have no idea what plans, if any, exist for industry as a whole.
        If one bears in mind we currently have a corrupt arsehole in power who makes Trump look like the Lake Galilee Pedestrian it doesn’t look too rosy.
        One can only hope common sense will eventually prevail and people will get fed up with the situation.

        Then someone might stand up up and say Wi Fok Yu.

        Liked by 2 people

      • acflory
        November 16, 2016

        lmao – I didn’t realise you spoke fluent -cough- Chinese. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Arkenaten
        November 16, 2016

        One has to adapt and hopefully we can strike a balance.
        Otherwise it will be Chinese Take Away for life.
        ‘Tis a global village after all and one can’t just take these things Li Ying down, you know?.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. acflory
    November 16, 2016

    @ Pinky – ‘They’re successfully abusing the system.’ Yes, corporations are successfully abusing the possible ‘intent’ of the system. And they are able to do it with impunity because the most powerful countries on earth aid and abet them. Globalisation has allowed a hidden power to come to the fore – corporatism. I’m not kidding. Forget Putin or even the little man with the bad haircut in North Korea. The real power behind the throne [and the real danger] is multinational because multinationals answer only to their shareholders [if that]. Everything else is simply a symptom of the imbalance in our power structures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • metan
      November 16, 2016

      😦 The idea that the loss of a first world textile industry, which couldn’t compete with the tiny wages and utter disregard for safety, is ok because the hordes of poor in sweatshops churning out poor quality clothing that doesn’t last (the creation and disposal of which can be an environmental disaster of it’s own) are slightly better off is just horrible.

      The governments who allow their people to work in those kinds of conditions aren’t interested in the money gained from trade agreements benefitting those lowly workers. If only the meagre dollars we pay for those cheap tshirts really went back to the workers in India, or Vietnam, but we know they don’t.

      And then we see things like this http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-16/cash-poor-indians-outraged-at-lavish-wedding-of-former-minister/8031720 . While the poor (those without bank accounts) are forced to queue to exchange their cash at banks in a chaotic attempt to clamp down on corruption and counterfeiting, this guy spends enough money on his daughters wedding to make a first world industry successful. No sign of governmental corruption there.

      If we trusted governments to act to benefit the people rather than themselves we would see these international trade agreements in a far better light.

      Liked by 4 people

      • It is terrible, but interestingly enough, even with the horribleness, a number of countries have been transformed within my lifetime. There’s still a lot of poverty in the BRIC countries, but I promise you the improvement in quality of life has been exceptional.

        Like

      • metan
        November 17, 2016

        Is it solely because of those international trade agreements though? I suspect that there are many other contributors to improved quality of life. And is it blanket improvement, or just that we see some of the poor have improved circumstances making us believe that everyone is living better.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I’ll get some numbers for you tomorrow. I spent time in blockade countries… Dire!

        Liked by 2 people

      • metan
        December 9, 2016

        I couldn’t help but add this link to a beautifully photographed article that I spied today. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-10/photographing-worlds-most-dangerous-mines-hugh-brown/8083616

        If we could see what went into the creation of everything we bought we would see the world very differently. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  8. acflory
    November 16, 2016

    @ Arkenaten….ROFL!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. acflory
    November 16, 2016

    Having just bought my first batch of incredibly cheap clothes on the internet – huge leap of faith – I can confirm that the internet is where I, as an Australian, can buy the cheapest clothes. Not in the shops. But the poorest Australians still buy their clothes from secondhand sources like op. shops which are mostly charity run.

    Liked by 1 person

    • metan
      November 16, 2016

      🙂 By the way, op-shopping is something of a sport for all these days Meeks, and I wouldn’t be surprised if online shopping mistakes are the reason I now have a growing collection of brand new, and ridiculously unnecessary, heels. 🙂
      (The other day, a new pair of leather ankle boots with the $200 price tag still attached, five bucks. Fist pump! 😀 )

      Liked by 1 person

      • I made that price tag myself 😛

        Liked by 2 people

      • metan
        November 17, 2016

        😀 Well then, it was nice of you to go out of your way to make me feel like I scored a bargain… 😉 As long as I can see they haven’t been stomped about in by someone else’s stinky feet I’m happy!

        Actually, it amazes me to see brand new expensive things being passed on to charity shops. Just shows what a throwaway society we live in.

        Liked by 1 person

      • About 25% of my clothes are from vintage/used shops 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • acflory
        November 17, 2016

        -grin- I love op shops too! And stay tuned for the “OMG! It doesn’t fit!’ explosion coming from Warrandyte when my goods arrive. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • metan
        November 17, 2016

        😀 your local op-shoppers will be happy for some brand new gear!
        My favourite, RetroStar in the city. It’s upstairs in the appropriately vintage Nicholas Building and you feel a bit like you’ve snuck in to a secret place when you make your way up the turns of the staircase. 🙂 (And then, depending on who has control of the music, listen to hardcore rap while browsing 1920’s frocks.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • acflory
        November 17, 2016

        Ooooh… I’ve never heard of that place, but it sounds wonderful! Thank you. 😀

        Liked by 2 people

      • metan
        November 17, 2016

        Worth it just to look inside the building. I love the magic that causes the domed leadlight roof of the ground floor arcade to somehow be lit from outside…
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Building

        Liked by 1 person

      • acflory
        November 17, 2016

        I must have passed by that building a million times without realising there was more to it than the shop fronts. Wow. I don’t get into town much but I’ll definitely check this one out when I do.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Fairy JerBear
    November 17, 2016

    I am impressed with the Canadian Prime Minister – makes me proud r be a Canadian American. I understand I’m eligible for Canadian citizenship as my mother is Canadian and was born in Nova Scotia. On the bright side I am in a very blue state, well most of it anyway. Santa Fe County, where I live, is a good place to be and 71% of us voted for Hillary.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. agrudzinsky
    November 20, 2016

    My opinion about free trade and open borders might be biased because I directly benefit from them. IMO, people must be free to live where they choose and do business with anyone in the world. I myself was educated in Ukraine and the U.S. and now work for a U.S. fabless semiconductor company employing about 100 engineers in the U.S., manufacturing products in Taiwan and selling them all over the world. We have engineers hired from all over the world: U.S., Germany, France, China, India. We work with software engineers from Israel, Ukraine, Russia. The founders are from India and the U.S. Without the ability to pull the best resources from all over the world, our company simply would not exist. There would be no Google because Sergei Brin would be stuck in corrupt Russia. There would be no Apple because if iPhones were made in the U.S., they would cost 10x of what they cost now. There would be no Tesla and Space X beating the government hands down on the cost of spacecraft launches and offering unprecedented innovation, because Elon Musk would live in South Africa which does not offer the same economic capabilities as the U.S.

    I have experience working with 2 wafer fabs in the U.S. who struggled to get their yields above 70% and deliver the required production capacity and a wafer fab/assembly house in Taiwan where yields are consistently 95% and they routinely ship $1B products PER DAY. The quality and capacity of those factories are simply astounding. If the U.S. government impedes access of the U.S. companies to those amazing resources and limits the ability to hire talent worldwide, it will kill A LOT of high-tech business in the United States.

    Name a major U.S. technological, scientific, or economic achievement that was made without benefiting from global economy or not made by immigrants. Einstein, Tesla, Sikorski, Musk, Brin are all immigrants.

    Well, yeah, we need to dig more coal and make more shirts in the United States. I understand…

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory
      November 20, 2016

      lol – you’re not the only immigrant! I was born in Hungary and grew up in Australia, so this discussion is not about the movement of /people/, nor is it about jobs – high tech companies don’t employ blue collar workers – and it’s definitely not about innovation because many of the best innovations come from small, hungry startups, not corporations.

      This is about fair trade. If some factory in China produces iPhones for $1 per unit, is it fair that the worker gets a couple of cents and the consumer pays hundreds?

      All that free trade is only reducing the cost to the consumer by a very small amount. The lion’s share of the benefit goes to the corporation, which often manages to pay next to no tax either.

      We need to have a conversation about the difference between democracy and capitalism.

      Like

      • agrudzinsky
        November 20, 2016

        You underestimate what it takes to develop a successful product, manufacture, distribute, advertise, sell it retail, and, most importantly, provide customer support for it. You have to maintain and manage a huge network of distributors, retail stores, a huge staff of marketers, and customer support people, etc. If only creating an electronic product, let alone an iconic one like iPhone, was as simple as making it at a sweatshop in China.

        Consumer electronic prices are strictly dictated by the market. You can’t arbitrarily charge 10x more than your competitor and you can’t charge less than it costs to make the product. Electronic companies strive to cut the cost to offer better prices than the competition or develop a unique product to charge more for something that the competition cannot offer (yet). Often, the winner in this race is determined by who implements a specific feature a month earlier than the competitors.

        If U.S. companies are penalized for trying to cut cost by moving production overseas, it will destroy a lot of high tech companies killing many engineering and sales jobs in the U.S. I’m not familiar with the clothing industry, but I think it will have a similar effect.

        “What’s fair” is a very vague term. Apparently, wages that people agree to work for are fair. If they thought otherwise, they would not agree to them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • acflory
        November 20, 2016

        Oh dear, where to begin. My ex ran a small computer business for close to 17 years and I worked in the business too – as tech writer and tech support. We produced off the shelf software, so I do know how hard it is to succeed at this business. When we had a major downturn in the early 90s, we lost the family home because it had been used to guarantee the overdraft for the business. But our staff were all locals and they were all paid a fair wage. It /is/ possible to run a business under fair principles. And before you say that we can’t have been doing that well if we lost the house…it was a recession and a lot of people ended up a lot worse off than us.
        As for Apple, I was in the business when Apple brought out its first computer. The current size and power of Apple may be due to out-sourcing, but the innovation happened in situ and with a lot less capital. No matter how you try to deny it, exploitation is exploitation, and if it happens amongst people who are desperate just to /eat/, then it’s morally and ethically reprehensible.
        ‘ Apparently, wages that people agree to work for are fair. If they thought otherwise, they would not agree to them.’
        Oh this is such a First World comment. Women trying to feed their children will do anything to put food on the table, including prostitution. In the Third World, the only choice is often between starvation or exploitation.

        Like

      • agrudzinsky
        November 20, 2016

        I can take back my comment about fair wages. I agree that desperate people would agree to many things to survive and taking advantage of that isn’t fair.

        But you speak of economy 30 years ago. Today the world is a lot different than in the 90s. Technology is different. The way of doing business is different. We now have many things that were hard to imagine in the 90s. E.g. I would not dream to carry a device in my pocket with 2 high resolution cameras, GPS, compass, and the ability to make phone calls worldwide and connect to the Internet. Also remember that the world population has nearly doubled in the last 30-40 years. There is no way back into the 90s. Many things that were possible then are now either impossible or don’t make any sense. You can’t, for example, go back to using steam engines no matter how many people were employed by the railroads 60 years ago. You cannot “undo” the ability to order something from China and get it delivered to the US in a couple of days. There are so many technological advances thar happened in the past 30 years which enable the globalization. You can’t force people not to use them.

        Like

      • metan
        November 20, 2016

        No, you can’t force people not to use these new technologies, but we’ve become people who expect that we can have everything we want right now, and that it should be bigger (or smaller), better, faster, and to pay as little as possible for it.

        We can’t go back, but forging ahead at the expense of societies that don’t have public welfare or fair conditions isn’t right either. The people in the US who mined Neodymium (for magnets, so your phone vibrates, among other things) certainly didn’t endure the same terrible conditions as the workers in China live in, and we can guess why China is where most of it comes from now. Your Nike shoes weren’t made by happy ladies who went home to their chubby cheeked children.

        To me fair trade is about ensuring that when jobs are sent overseas it isn’t because the workers there will tolerate conditions the purchaser of the goods wouldn’t tolerate for themselves.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That doesn’t take into account the actual “conditions on the ground.” The minimum wage in Spain (€756) is half of the French minimum wage (€1466). An argument can be made that the Spanish mw is exploitative- meanwhile unemployment is still over 20%…

        Like

      • metan
        November 20, 2016

        I didn’t suggest that wages need to be identical to a first world country, the cost of living is an entirely different thing. I just have a problem with companies deliberately taking advantage of the working conditions we’d never accept for ourselves, and ones that third world workers are powerless to change.

        Liked by 2 people

      • agrudzinsky
        November 20, 2016

        If workers overseas are paid what Americans see as fair and their employers pay social security and health insurance for them, then it would become cheaper to make these things in the U.S., as it should be. But we won’t be able to buy stuff for the same prices. There’s a paradox. People in the U.S. and Europe benefit from technical progress and exploitation of workers overseas, but they also suffer because they lose jobs that go to robots and to the exploited workers.

        As for the question whether free trade is good or bad, this question is applicable to freedom in general – speech, guns, abortions, etc. Freedom implies the ability to choose including the ability to choose evil things. Freedom has a price of uncertainty. There is a fundamental dilemma between freedom and security in many senses – job security, physical security, etc.

        Liked by 2 people

      • metan
        November 20, 2016

        Nope, nothing would be as cheap, and being annoyed about that is saying to those overseas workers that it’s more important I have access to affordable luxuries than it is you having a decent life.

        The problem with exploitation of overseas workers is that we don’t see it. We unwrap a shiny new phone and it is easy to ignore what went into the making of it. If our kids were looking forward to a career in a sweatshop we’d be doing something about it, but because it’s a kid who doesn’t live on our street we’re OK with it… Perhaps if we had to walk through the factory to pick up our new iThing we’d value it far more. 😦

        Liked by 2 people

      • metan
        November 20, 2016

        Arrgh! My poor typing, not fair trade, free trade!

        Like

  12. acflory
    November 20, 2016

    @ agrudzinsky Free Trade, like a whole heap of other things, is not inherently good or bad, it’s simply a process. The problem occurs with the implementation of the process. To be ‘good’ all signatories to the agreement should benefit from the agreement – e.g.. Outer Mongolia should have access to Australian markets to sell their produce on a ‘level playing field’. But that is not what happens. The big players get to set the terms and the smaller players have to accept those terms or get nothing at all. That is not a level playing field. It’s bullying on a global scale.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Arkenaten
    November 26, 2016

    There is one aspect that has hardly been raised in this discussion: corruption.

    How many palms have been greased by those wishing to forge new markets in previously inaccessible countries?

    Some of you may be aware of the huge Arms Scandal in South Africa a few years ago.
    Literally billions were spent on armaments, much of which is now pretty much useless today.
    How ”free” is trade when a corrupt government is conducting negotiations?

    Liked by 2 people

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This entry was posted on November 15, 2016 by in activism and tagged , , , , , , .
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