I am, in many ways, a liberal.
In particular, I favour free trade. I think that, by default, free trade agreement are good. And my argument falls flatly with neo Ricardian approaches, such as the classical Krugman. Free trade has, historically, always be supported by multinationals, but this is not enough to make it wrong. We know that for all the past free trade agreements.
But I have a problem:
- In today’s debate, free trade is the establishment; it’s defending the interest of big multinationals which are holding the real power and manoeuvring politicians and governments. In today’s debate, Bernie Sanders is the honest guy, Hillary Clinton is the establishment. TTIP is the big companies agenda, anti-TTIP are honest. There is no room for a genuine, pro free market argument. When I hear Bernie Sanders arguments, that free trade takes away american jobs, I think that’s not too far away from Donald Trump. That is incorrect, it’s manipulative, it’s populist.
- The “new Labour” wave of politicians (Clinton, Blair, Schroeder…) have shown low moral standards and do not have the credibility to defend genuine liberalism.
- The content of TTIP is being overshadowed by its secrecy and the ISDS.
My plea is this. There are genuine liberals who believe in free trade: not because they are spokespeople of multinationals; not out of cynical realism about “that’s the way the world goes”; but because free trade is the best antidote against war, and because protectionism is worse.
We desperately need credible, charismatic, authoritative left wing free trade advocates, that do not eat into the hands of multinationals, that don’t use the revolving door, that don’t have questionable moral habits.