Pulled along by the war on terrorism, the
multinational corporate campaign
to deregulate the global economy seems back on course--at least for the moment.
By shrewdly buying votes and appealing to patriotism, the Bush administration
engineered the jump start of a stalled new round of trade talks at the World
Trade Organization in mid-November. Three weeks later, the White House squeaked
through to a one-vote victory in the House of Representatives to put trade deals
on a legislative "fast track." Unfortunately, the result of both events will be
to bury the real issue: competent and accountable governance of the global
"Sometimes," U.S. Trade Representative Robert
Zoellick said recently, "tragedy
also presents opportunities for those who are alert." Sure enough, in the
collapse of the World Trade Center, the alert Mr. Zoellick saw an opportunity to
appeal to wartime patriotism in order to put new trade deals on a congressional
As this spring's congressional debate heats up over ratification of the recent China-U.S. trade agreement, the mainstream media have once again dragged out the hoary morality play on "free trade." On the dark side are protectionist unions, irresponsible eco-freaks, and the jingoist right. On the side of light and reason are the president, the Republican leadership, and the high-minded CEOs of America's great multinational corporations. In the script, the triumph of virtue is continually put at risk by the public's ignorance of economics.
Becoming a media buzzword is the public relations dream of every Washington policy cabal. It is the signal that the media is ready to collaborate. The great PR success story of the 1980s was the "supply-siders." The term, which suggests a conservative concern with investment and producer efficiency, is still applied to those who promoted the decidedly demand-side Reaganomics of economic stimulus through the deficit financing of military and private consumption.