Trade and globalization get blamed for society’s ills

At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing yesterday, chaired by Representative Charles Rangel, witnesses said that the effects of trade and globalization on American workers and the U.S. economy have to be carefully examined, and policies to deal with worker insecurity need to be addressed.

The panel testifying included law and business professors, economists, and business leaders, who all seemed to give credence to negative views of trade’s effects.

There were strong recommendations to include “social contracts” in trade agreements, with Georgetown Law Professor Daniel Tarullo specifically calling for that:

. . . trade agreements should be occasions for reaffirming the social compact. There is no single formula for doing so. What is sensible and feasible will vary with the nature and scope of the agreement at issue. But, in one form or another, each should include measures specifically addressed to the needs of Americans whose economic prospects and security are threatened by the forces of economic change, including globalization.

Gene Sperling, former President Clinton’s economic advisor, called for stringent labor mandates in trade agreements and monitoring procedures to ensure compliance. He also called for programs for displaced workers to provide security and enhance “human dignity.”

Most Committee members present at the hearings, in their comments and questions, seemed to blame trade and globalization for U.S. society’s ills. That doesn’t bode well for progress toward more open trade through the multilateral system or through bilaterals, where the U.S. has already weighed down trade agreements with stringent labor and environmental provisions for developing countries.