The Unsolved Riddle of Free Trade and Globalization

We in Canada are singularly fortunate, because when we embrace free trade and a global economy, we do not need to strain ourselves to make it an imperial project. We are simply too small. The Brits tried it until it became too expensive and too immoral to be tolerated, but still struggle to recover the glory. The Americans are thoroughly entangled, the price of the profits asserting itself constantly in lives, treasure and cancer in the soul. The Chinese will get there eventually. The Russians are clawing their way back, with moral and financial bankruptcy probable outcomes. The European experiment is an interesting one: to create an economic empire as a kind of cooperative with members instead of subjects or colonies. It’s too early to write that off; the quest for internal balance is going to be a long one.

When we deal for free trade under modern, enlightened terms of reference, we accept the necessity that the relationship must be balanced. When one or more of the parties is significantly poorer than others, then that necessity is going to bite hard, because economic imbalance within an area of free trade cannot be tolerated. It simply becomes another way to exploit, eventually just as brutal as the old ways. Hence the thrust of would-be American policy towards Mexico.

If we don’t want economic refugees from our trading partners, then we had better start investing and working for prosperity where they are, and not just for our own. And some of our own people are going to be hurt in the process. We had better look after them decently, or they will vote with their votes and the result will be a sorry spectacle. Do we really need anything more than the lessons of the recent US election?

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