March 23, 2009

IT'S UP TO THE AUSSIE "LEFT" TO MOVE THE UR TO HOWARD'S RIGHT:

Rudd's neo-liberal hat (Michael Stutchbury, March 24, 2009, The Australian)

AFTER some unsolicited advice on fixing America's banks, Kevin Rudd needs to give Barack Obama a good neo-liberal talking-to on free trade when the two leaders meet this week. The Prime Minister claims the US is "back in the game of providing global economic leadership". But there's little evidence of this from Obama or his new trade negotiator ina policy area of intense concern toAustralia. [...]

Rudd, of course, acknowledges what has become so mainstream a notion that a French socialist intellectual, Pascal Lamy, now cheerleads free trade as head of the World Trade Organisation. Even Brazil's left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has become one of Australia's important free-trade allies.

Australia cast off protectionism in the mid-'80s, embracing international competition as the best way to lift national living standards. The incoming Rudd Government was even more purist or neo-liberal, so to speak, than the Howard government, which was accused of chasing bilateral deals to the detriment of the WTO's multilateral Doha Round. And the WTO's very existence belies Rudd's claim that neo-liberals, whoever they may be, are "intrinsically suspicious of all forms of multilateral governance". Some American libertarians may be. And some who trail-blazed Australia's free trade conversion maintain that the WTO's horsetrading discourages unilateral "disarmament" of import barriers. But, by and large, it is the loopy Left that most seeks to undermine the global institution of free-trade rules. A social democratic rich nation calls for "fair trade" - which essentially seeks to restrict competition by imposing higher labour standards on poor nations - now robs the world of a free-trade booster shot just when it needs it most.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 23, 2009 8:13 AM
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