Knowing there is no legitimate case for protectionism, its proponents are now attempting to define free trade as something that it is not. Writing for Salon, David Sirota says:
Trade policy, as I’ve previously noted, often has nothing to do with what we conventionally define as “trade” — that is, it has nothing to do with the exchange of goods and services, and everything to do with using state power to solidify corporations’ supremacy over individual citizens. In that sense, the modern era’s ongoing debates over “free trade” are a corporate public relations coup — by tricking the public and the media into believing we’re debating one thing (commerce) when we’re debating something entirely different (power), the “free trade” brand casts those who raise questions about these pacts as know-nothing Luddites (who could be against commerce, right?).
Oddly, Sirota offers no further support for his claim that free trade uses “state power to slidify coporations’ suppremacy over individual citizens” nor does he even clarify precisely what it is he means. It appears as though he is content to level that charge and move on to a different subject:
…In creating direct unprotected competition between Americans and foreign workers who have no labor, wage or human rights protections, the most celebrated trade pacts of the last two decades have — quite predictably — resulted in widespread layoffs and the hollowing out of America’s middle class job base.
Here’s the thing: Free trade doesn’t purport to keep jobs in any one place. Instead, it seeks to open up the market to allow labor and resources to flow where there are best utilized. Instead of decrying the exportation of jobs from the US, perhaps Sirota should study the advantages other nations have over the States. I hold that he would, if he is honestly objective, discover that those “labor, wage or human rights protections” are a large hindrance to American competition. Indeed, they are not part of the free-market canon.
Then came news that multinational firms are using the World Trade Organization to prevent nations from trying to build up their domestic green-energy industries. This follows the Obama administration’s similar — and successful — efforts directed at China.
Again, this is not a tenet of free trade. Using the WTO, or any organization, as a bully pulpit to prevent other nations, corporations, or citizens from freely operating is…not free (did I really need to say that?)
Similar to redefining free trade in a way that renders it more vulnerable to the protectionist argument, several proponents of broader government intervention blame capitalism and free markets for problems created or exacerbated precisely by government interventions.