Increasing Jobs and Wages

Managing trade is a government responsibility. It should lead to increasing jobs and wages.

Business and Trade

Someone has suggested that trade is good for the economy, since the advocacy of business for more trade proves this to be the case. Yet it would be unnatural (and should not happen from a governance perspective) for businesses to put increasing jobs and wages for the nation as a whole as a priority in their boardrooms. Just saying this makes it sound as ridiculous as Senator Sanders’ continual attack, in the US context, upon business profits.

Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand”

It is the government that has actually made Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” work with all the power it has manifested in the 19th and 20th century. It did not happen by some wonderful and mysterious alchemy, as some economists seem to think. Yes, protectionist trade policies can lead to increasing jobs and wages.

It is the government’s job to make sure that trade agreements it signs increase jobs and wages; it is not the job of business.

Yes. It is amazing, but the governments of USA and Australia have delivered the fundamentals of economic growth, mostly through protectionist policies in the 19th century (USA) and in the 20th century (Australia). They did actually increase jobs and wages.

In the US context, only Donald Trump has realised the truth of this obvious point. Certainly not most “economic experts.”

Economists are yesterday’s prophets

Recent history has shown that so-called economic experts are blind to economic and political facts. They are stuck in a 1820’s paradigm. Despite having had nearly 200 years to check out whether Comparative Advantage works or not for ordinary workers without government oversight, they haven’t bothered.

Nationalism is the only way forward

Most commentators are totally blind to benefits of a revival of nationalism. Yet this will again see governments looking after the interests of voters.  How can it be otherwise in a democracy? Do commentators think that increasing jobs and wages for ordinary workers (voters) is not important?

Today, in the Australian, Bernard Salt pointed out that only 300,000 jobs have been lost in manufacturing over the last 16 years, but 1.3 million jobs have been added elsewhere. Yet despite the superficial appeal of this analysis for the zero-tariff argument, it actually means that 300,000 people are now out of a job and will not be able to retrained in anything like the jobs that they have lost. They are NOT going to get jobs in the rapidly growing medical / health industry, except as janitors and ancillary staff. Perhaps they can all become baristas in the food service industry! Is that the best we can offer?

Yet a modest tariff regime that would increase the probably of these people being employed in paid jobs, suited to their skills and abilities. Sure, well-paid medical workers and economists might have to pay 10% more for some goods, but they can afford it!

Sometimes we forget that an average IQ is 100, not 150, even in the USA or Australia! Not everyone can be trained for a highly-skilled job.

Increasing jobs and wages

Jobs and wages are more important than ever-cheaper goods. Who can deny it? Apparently, almost all economists. Unfortunately they are leading a declining bunch of out-of-date politicians by the nose to their decline and eventual irrelevancy.

Nationalism will eventually prevail over the current ideologically driven, dominant, economic approach.

Bring on the day! In Australia, Barnaby Joyce has landed a part on the government dais; In the UK, Theresa May has arrived; In USA, Donald Trump has arrived.

Higher Minimum Wages in the Developing World

Higher Minimum Wages in the developing world will increase prosperity everywhere.

G20 & WTO should lead

The G20 and the WTO have dropped the ball on trade. They should be taking the lead in “forcing” downtrodden nations go for higher minimum wages. But they don’t – the G20 and WTO just hand all such matters over to the leaders of global industries, aka “the market.”

While increased trade has resulted in some improvement in living standards in some developing nations, in general the gap between the developing world and the rest has not narrowed very much, especially if you leave China, Taiwan and South Korea out of the picture. The difference in those places is that the leaders of these nations didn’t believe the more trade would be enough: they also decided to control the situation more tightly.

These two “organizations” congratulate themselves on having done a good job in increasing the standard of living in the developing world.

They congratulate themselves too much. China has been the biggest beneficiary from free trade with the West. They have done this by keeping much of their own protective regime in place, and closely managing their own economy vis-à-vis the rest of the world. They call this “communism with Chinese characteristics.” There is no way that the Chinese will put themselves in the hands of global capital, but this exactly what the G20 and the WTO are advocating. At the same time they take much of the credit for the improvement in China’s economic situation. Well, good for them! I hope it keep them happy at night, as their own constituents lose their own standard of living at the same time.

Mexico needs a higher Minimum Wages

Take Mexico as an example. Many commentators believe that Mexico has benefited from NAFTA. Certainly the Mexican government believes this to be the case. However, Mexican workers receive $15 day, whereas their wage competitors in the USA receive $15 hour. This is not because Mexican workers are only one eighth as productive as US domiciled workers, as someone has ridiculously suggested.

Don’t expect global corporations to encourage developing nations to introduce higher minimum wages. They love low wages. They won’t fix them, and indeed, they can’t. To pay more for labor than the market requires would be a breach of their governance standards.

WTO could support Higher Minimum Wages

A real fix would be for the G20 and the WTO to introduce a rule that says something like this: “Country based tariffs can be introduced where the effective minimum wage built into the goods being imported is less than half the effective minimum wage in the importing country.”

Taking Mexico as an example, if higher minimum wages were introduced the Mexican government would be compelled to introduce a minimum wage that was equal to half the effective minimum wage in the USA. Such an action would see real benefits being achieved from that nation’s increased export activity.

Nevertheless, while the G20 will have to backtrack on its impotent rage against Trump’s trade rhetoric following his election, it will do nothing of any use in fixing the trade problems of the world. Apparently, the G20 leaders do not understand that crushing the wages of ordinary workers actually reduces national wealth. They do not understand how global corporations work, and that they are not a force for improving the wages of ordinary workers. Perhaps they should read George Cooper’s Money, Blood & Revolution.

Prosperity, Insecurity and Poverty

We live in a time of great prosperity, unparalleled plenty, variety, health and peace. We also live in a period of intense and global competition, where not one job has even a scrap of the security that a job might have had 50 years ago.

Unparalleled Prosperity, with increased Insecurity

We are more prosperous than ever before, but would any ordinary working person willingly accept that getting everything 20% cheaper is really worth the employment insecurity that the current free trade arrangements are causing? I doubt it.

Automation is NOT the problem

For those who argue that it is automation, not unrestrained free trade, that is causing increased employment insecurity, I say, “Balony!” I spent a large amount of my working life implementing automation, and it didn’t lead to widespread unemployment. That is because the governments of the world hadn’t yet handed over power to global corporations, via unrestrained free trade.

Prosperity provides an opportunity to fix poverty

We can use the world’s prosperity to lift nations out of poverty, via trade, but we have to do it differently. It is no good just using our prosperity to lift the incomes of the top 20%.

We have given up the opportunity that prosperity has provided, since the great democracies of the world have surrendered their authority and power to global corporations. Shame, shame and more shame upon them all.

How to fix

There is a fix. It is in the hands of voters. It is also in the hands of the world leaders, via the WTO. It is Donald Trump who has provided the catalyst. Those who condemn him are among the worst offenders in regard to causing the current malaise. So I support Trump’s abrupt and counter-cultural rhetoric! Shock, horror!

We will be the poorer if we don’t pick up the baton that he has placed in the next runner’s hand.

Lower Company Tax Rates will NOT fix Economic Malaise

Company Tax Rates are not the reason that economic growth is sluggish in the current global economy. Lowering Company Tax is not a priority

While cutting company tax rates to attract and keep businesses in the country is currently an attractive idea, it is without proper theoretical justification.

Company tax on Domestic Earnings

If I can earn 2% profit on domestic sales of $1b = $20m, and pay 10% tax, then the net income I can earn is $18m. However, if I can earn 5% profit on sales of $1b = $50m, and pay 25% tax, then the net income I can earn is $37.5m. I am much better off if I can increase my profit margin, rather than seeking lower company tax rates.

If imports are subjected to a 5% tariff, then this situation is more than possible.

Furthermore, if I need a 5% profit in order to profitably invest, then I won’t invest in a high-cost country. This is closer to the real situation in the world, where there is not a problem with corporate tax rates, but there is nothing in which to invest in the West. Competition from the East is driving away all investment opportunities, which is actually also hurting the East, since it markets are drying up.

The current situation is both appalling and lacking in a theoretical justification, despite the dominance of this ideology among the elites. If they don’t wake up, they will lose all influence in the West, as is beginning to happen in the USA, France, and even in Australia.

Global Trade Reform is required

As Donald Trump has demonstrated, the West’s voters are calling for a trade realignment. None of the main-stream parties are really on board (even the Republicans are running on Trump’s coat-tails and are not “true believers”). Indeed, President Trump has created a catalyst for global trade reform. The USA could use this opportunity to implement reform via WTO that will work for both developed and developing nations. Yet it remains to be seen whether Global Trade Reform will happen.

Company Tax on Export Earnings

In regard to exports, why would I set up in any high-cost country to export to the world? The reason must be the quality of the staff that I could employ, and the higher export sales (or lower final costs) I can achieve. Let us follow that scenario.

If I can earn 2% profit on export sales of $1b = $20m, and pay 10% tax, my net income will be $18m. However, if I can earn 2% profit on export sales of $2b = $40m, and pay 25% tax, my income will be $30m. If this were the situation, my decision to move my business to a high-cost country would be entirely rational on the grounds of higher potential net profit after tax, even with a higher rate of tax.

Surely, few can dispute the significant advantages of more skilled staff. If anyone wishes to do so, please explain why tech companies are located in high wages, high taxes, California, rather than in Bangladesh, with low wages, and a tax holiday.

Domestic Demand drives most Business Income

Most businesses primarily service domestic demand. If that fact were given more attention, the current economic malaise would be fixed overnight.

Nevertheless, mainstream leaders like to mix with the (export) winners, not with domestic players. Their obsession with a particular economic ideology will see the world being changed, but not in the direction they are planning. Lowering company tax should NOT be a first priority.

Steven Keen on Democracy and Capitalism

The radical Australian economist, Steven Keen, has somewhat surprisingly “come out” as an opponent of Free Trade, at least as currently practiced.

In an breakthrough interview published in The Epoch Times, Steven Keen explains how Donald Trump could revive American manufacturing. This article is tellingly entitled, “Why Free Trade Doesn’t Work for the Workers.”

Steven Keen argues Ricardo’s (1820) theory is flawed

Keen pointed out that the argument by classical economist David Ricardo (1772–1823) about wine and clothes involved the workers in one industry losing their jobs. Ricardo assumed, as do modern neoclassical economists, that workers in the losing industry can get a job in the winning industry. So it’s assuming full employment, everybody who wants a job gets a job, which is not the real world. And they also assume you can move resources from one industry into another. Certainly, workers can be retrained. While it takes time, it can be done.

Drawing an example from China, Keen noted that China now produces more of everything, and that it is not possible is turning a weaving machine into a steel furnace. And that’s why you have the rust-belt. In the case of China and the United States, the steel plants in the United States won’t become weaving machines; they just turn into rust. So what you have is absolute destruction of physical resources in one country. Or they ship the capital to the place where the low wage workers are, like China or Mexico, and what you get is a class redistribution of income. The workers in the developed country lose, the capitalists in that country gain.

Steven Keen argues that Free Trade gives Capitalists a “Free Kick”

Keen observes that in this scenario, capitalists in the developed country still own the machinery and employ people but in a different country and at lower wages. Then they sell the products back into the American markets at the same prices but at lower costs. So they gain, and the working class has to finance their consumption with increased levels of debt because they don’t have the income anymore. The workers in the developing country also gain, so it’s also a wealth transfer from the developed to the developing country.

Why BrExit “won” & why Trump won

Steven Keen comments that in a democracy you get to the point where the workers have lost so much because of globalization, they get sick and tired of hearing the fairy tale that they won’t suffer and that it’s all for their own good. And they look at their decayed streets and factories and dismal jobs and lower share of income, and they say: “You know what, I’m going to vote against this.” And that’s what we are seeing globally now with Trump and Brexit, this revolt against globalization and financialization. The absolute losers of all of this are the working class of the first world. The winners are the multinational corporations.

Welfare vs Work

In an interesting and perceptive comment on human nature, Steven Keen says that humans get their sense of self-worth by contributing to a community. If you are human and you are being paid for staying alive, you are not particularly happy about it, your sense of self-worth is pretty low. But if you have a job and can contribute to a community, that’s where your sense of self-worth is going to come from. All this welfare is replacing work which is the case in the rust-belt areas makes people angry and resentful. Their self-worth is challenged and they are not going to be happy with the establishment.

He believes that is why Trump has such an appeal, and they don’t care about him being politically incorrect. They like the fact he is like a human hand grenade. They threw the human hand grenade into Washington.

Automation

Getting closer to a nuanced view on automation than most commentators, Steven Keen begins by arguing that part of the motivation for American businesses to move production offshore was cheap labor. But with better and better robots, you can have machines you can retrain for different assembly processes. And you have 3-D printing turning up, which has become mainstream. So it means you can produce onshore without cheap labor. But it also means you can produce without labor at all.

Although he does not define what “a well-functioning human society” would look like, he thinks that in such a society producing without any labor at all would not be a problem. He believes that the problem in a neoclassical capitalist system is that the workers lose out because their only source of income is wages. If there is no need for wages anymore, you don’t have an income anymore.

My Response

Steven Keen’s analysis of the modern economic dilemma is first class, however he does not offer anything substantive in the way of a solution.

A declared opponent of “neoclassical economics,” Steven Keen is quite happy to make comments like, “In a neoclassical capitalist system [in this scenario] the workers lose out because their only source of income is wages.” However, when he goes on to say, “If there is no need for wages anymore, you don’t have an income anymore,” but “in a well-functioning human society, that wouldn’t be a problem.” In this he is contracting his own point that welfare-dependency is a self-defeating solution to current economic problems.

From the full text of this interview, we know that he is still an opponent of tariffs as a way of achieving balance within an economy, and still hankers after the socialist ideal of a world without artificial borders.

In this area, this site is closer to Donald Trump on the need for tariffs supporting national objectives. Nationalism is deeply rooted in human psychology (beginning with a mother’s care for her child). This cannot be claimed for internationalist objectives of Ricardo’s Free Trade ideology or Marxist ideology. While Keen sees the future as being “post capitalist,” I see the future being in capitalism being brought (again) under the control of national parliamentary democracy, thus reflecting the needs and interests of the people.

I am confident that Steven Keen would agree with me in the proposition that an objective of the political system should be to deliver a result that is in the interests of ordinary people (the top 1%ers are quite able to look after themselves). I am not so sure he would agree with me in seeing a nationalist capitalist system as the basis of that model. Time will tell on that point.

I promote Democratic Capitalism because I believe it will serve the majority of people quite well. Indeed, the current trend is in support of the principles of Democratic Capitalism. As evidence for this, I can cite Theresa May in the UK (“Democracy that works for everyone”), and Donald Trump in the USA (“Make America great again”).

Global Trade Reform

President Trump has created a catalyst for global trade reform. The USA could use this opportunity to implement reform via WTO that will work for both developed and developing nations.

The Problem with Global Trade

Even though the push towards globalization has done much to reduce poverty in those nations able to exploit the changes for the benefits of their own citizens, it has presented three easily identifiable problems;

  1. Zero tariffs do absolutely nothing to remove the first-mover-advantage of Western nations. Without tariff protections, developing nations are severely limited in their ability to develop diverse economies. Each nation should seek a diversified economy, despite the benefits of specialization. Providing a diversified economy is the only way in which a nation can utilize all the skills of all their people.
  2. Western nations are unable to provide sufficient work for ordinary workers in the face of very low wages that are being offered in developing nations. A skilled worker in the USA on $15 an hour cannot compete with a skilled worker in Mexico on $15 a day. It will never work out well for the ordinary workers of the West, who actually represent the majority of voters. (Elites: watch out, your day of reckoning has come!)
  3. Globalization has failed to deliver the real equalization of incomes between developed and developing nations that has been promised by its advocates. The pressure to keep wages down in developing nations is maintained by global corporations. They are only too willing to move operations from one country to another in search of the lowest possible cost of labor. Of course, they are only operating in the way the situation requires. If it is to be changed, it will have to be changed by changing the situation, not by requiring corporations to act in ways that conflict with their own charters.

Implementing Global Trade Reform

Having defined the problem with global trade, reform of its operation becomes self evident. Here is a simple two-part fix, which Donald Trump could initiate and virtually force the whole world to adopt.

  1. The WTO rules to be changed so that any nation can introduce and maintain a high level of tariff in order to offset an identified first-mover-advantage. It is suggested that a tariff of 25% would be a good starting point for a discussion on this aspect.
  2. The WTO rules to be changed so that any nation can implement a country-by-country tariff on goods coming from another country, where the minimum wage (actual or official) is less than 50% of the minimum wage of the importing country.

Only item 2 of this program for global trade reform really applies to the USA, and pending a WTO agreement, Donald Trump could implement that aspect immediately.

In regard to NAFTA, Mexico could be encouraged to raise the minimum wage in all factories exporting to the USA to 50% of the USA minimum wage.

Under these arrangements for global trade reform, the pressure to move work from nation to nation in the search for the lowest possible wage levels would come to an end. It would also end the waste of national resources that comes from starting a factory in one country and moving it to another.

Global trade reform along these lines would see the incentive for nations (like Bangladesh) to be the work-house of the West coming to an end. Indeed, the wages of ordinary workers throughout the world would be increased.

Super-low prices will end

Yes, it is true that the prices of some very low-priced, but valuable goods, like clothing, would increase significantly over time. This would reflect the fact that the workers of the world were not continuing to be impoverished in order to meet the needs of the developed world.

For those who do not like that prospect. Suck it up! It is coming!

Open Markets – not Free Trade

Free Trade is supposed to enhance Open Markets, but the facts shows that Free Trade kills competition. It makes oligopolies and destroys truly open markets.

Open Markets require many players

It is axiomatic in economics that an open market requires many players, and that competition only works for maximum effect when there are open markets.

The experience of the last 30 years has shown a trend towards agglomeration, with smaller firms being swallowed up. This is done in an attempt to achieve a level of market power and cost efficiency resulting in a firm being of sufficient size that it can compete with all comers, and dominate a market.

If economists were not blinded by their own theories, they would realize that this trend is antithetical to their “ideal world” of perfect competition. Instead of combating this trend, they are prepared to explain it away as a limitation to their micro-economic theories.

Open Markets deliver mixed results

The effect of open markets is clearly seen in the agricultural sectors especially in subsistence economies. Here the farmers deliver their products to the market and receive whatever the customers will pay – they are entirely price-takers.

No-one wants to be a price-taker in an open market. We all want to be price-setters. In the agricultural sector this can only be achieved if the producers gather together in a collective, and only deliver to the market those goods that must be sold, because they will perish, or those goods that will receive the best price that the market is likely to pay (in the medium term).

The ideal situation is where the market sets the price, based on supply and demand, but where both buyers and sellers have equal power. Yet this never can be achieved under Free Trade. This is because the lowest-cost producer has virtual monopoly power.

The end result under Free Trade, is that open markets for many goods and services become a virtual fiction, with a few operators holding an unconscionable level of monopoly power, by virtue of operating in an oligolopolistic space.

Restoring Open Markets in the US via a Cash Destination Tax

The US Republican proposal for a Cash Destination Tax has the potential of restoring a more competitive market situation in the United States. This is because US producers will gain a slight advantage over those producing goods and services overseas. This will arise because only the costs incurred in the United States will be deducted from income when assessing income tax payable by corporations.

The slightly higher prices that United States firms will be able to charge for sales within the United States will encourage additional producers to enter the market. As well as improving the Open Market status of the US economy, wage rates for US workers will rise, bankruptcies will reduce, and the neglected cities of the US will revive again.

However, one aspect of the Republican proposal for a Cash Destination Tax is totally unacceptable. This is the proposal not to charge Income Tax on any revenue earned by exporting outside of the United States. Surely, the proponents of this aspect of the tax know that importing countries will be entitled to treat all US firms as if they were dumping their goods. One thing is for certain, the EU will impose countervailing dumping penalties on all imports from the US. It is also the way of such things, for dumping tariffs to include a penalty component.

If the Republicans insist on “no Income Tax on Export revenue”, we can look forward to a full-throated trade war. Good luck with that! It won’t end well.

Too much Competition is Too Much!

Who is too thick not to realize that getting imported goods at a price 20% cheaper is not worth the social dislocation that the current Free Trade ideology is creating?

Apparently, most of the people protesting against the Donald Trump agenda are as thick as bricks.

Yes, the Obama years saw the US economy recover, albeit ever-so-slowly, from the sub-prime induced difficulties. However, the EU and the Obama administration were too thick to realize that the Global Financial Crisis merely exposed the soft under-belly of the economies of the Western world. Radical changes are required to fix this situation, and the world can thank God that the US electoral college decided to elect the radical Donald Trump, rather than Hillary Clinton, who would have continued Obama’s failed policies.

There can be no investment where there is nothing in which to invest. For most industries, this is a problem caused by Free Trade. Who will invest in the developed world when  almost everything can be made more cheaply in Asia. Yet the irony is that these cheaper goods have to be exported back to the developed world, with the markets in the developed world drying up because the jobs supporting them have gone.

Undeveloped economies need trade reform

Undeveloped nations should give their utmost efforts to making the farmers more prosperous, with higher prices being achieved for their produce. This will require a modification of their own Open Market theories, such as discussed above, so that their markets work for the good of their own nations, not for the benefit of global capital.

Look after yourselves! Capitalists are required to look after their shareholders, not to look after the nations in which they operate. Oxfam may fulminate, but its pleas will achieve nothing if national governments do not look after their own people.

 

Food Security: PNG Leader

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, welcomed the commitment of fellow APEC Leaders to strengthen food security around the region, that he said will benefit both the people and food producers of Papua New Guinea.

PNG leader on Food Security

The following is an extract from Papua New Guinea News Today.

After APEC Leaders delivered their Lima Declaration this week, the Prime Minister said APEC’s focus on regional food security will not only strengthen economies, but will open up skills training and technical support for Papua New Guinea.

He said food security is a further area of significant concern for APEC Leaders and they are encouraging greater action around the region and in individual countries.

The Prime Minister said, “APEC can address challenges to food security and this has implications for all people in the food supply chain, from farmer to consumer. As part of this, APEC Leaders have instructed our officials to place more emphasis on enhancing food markets, and this includes integrating food producers into domestic and global food supply and value chains. We further agreed that our Governments must do more to reduce food loss and waste, and for Papua New Guinea this is important in the post harvest-phase of production. This is the period after the crop is harvested and before it gets to market, and where food loses can have a serious impact in the incomes of our farmers and food producers.”

The Prime Minister went on to say that climate change and extreme weather pose a major challenge for food production and food security, noting that APEC Leaders have instructed officials in their respective countries to be proactive in dealing with this threat.

He concluded, “Papua New Guinea will participate in projects and technical capacity building programs that will help farmers better protect against climate change.”

Globalisation not a benefit to all: PNG leader

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, said APEC will recognise that not all elements of globalisation are beneficial for all people. Let us hope so.

PNG leader on Globalisation

The following is an extract from Papua New Guinea News Today.
Mr O’Neill went on to say, “Sentiments being expressed by people all around the world today are that globalisation is not necessarily beneficial for everyone. As a result of that, many of the most vulnerable people have been affected by some of the arrangements and agreements that we have put in place over the years. Yes, there has been growth, but there have also been people affected by the loss of jobs and income, and many small businesses and micro businesses have not been able to be competitive when larger multi-nationals come into their markets.”
Mr. O’Neill said this is particularly the case in emerging economies, as well as for some of the developed economies.
Continuing his argument, he said, “Despite some structural reforms that have been underway in our respective economies, and how we manage our state owned enterprises, these issues continue to linger. APEC has a responsibility in ensuring that we work together in enhancing how we move capital, goods and services, and skilled labour right across our economies, so that we can enhance value chains and continue to enable growth within our economies.”
Interesting isn’t it that it takes the leader of a very poor developing nation to bell the cat, as Donald Trump has done, on the false ideology that unbounded free trade will be the saviour of the world. They both know that trade needs to be managed according to the particular needs of each nation.
One thing we know for certain: economists and the left/elite have let the world down on this issue, instead of using their energies to help resolve the distortions that they have helped to create.

 

APEC 2016 in Peru discusses Protectionism

While the national leaders at the APEC 2016 conference in Peru are willing to acknowledge that “some people have been left behind,” there is little agreement on the action required to fix this.

Peru points the way

In an interview translated on SBS TV (in Australia), Peru’s Finance Minister, Mercedes Araoz said, “What they [the discontented voters] are taking issue with is valid in all societies in the face of globalisation, and perhaps a bit of rejection of it. The request is to apply some mechanism to make it more inclusive.”

Nowhere is the need more obvious to make national economies stronger & fairer than in the developing world. Apart from their own entrenched income inequalities, they are also faced with a most daunting prospect: the first-mover-advantage over them of developed nations. Indeed, it was the intention of the TPP to entrench that advantage well into the foreseeable future. For the sake of Peru, and other vulnerable nations, it is fortunate that this treaty has been put on hold. May it be buried forever, and along with it an attempt to game the system in favor of the largest corporations in the world.

Ms Araoz’s plea

Responding to Ms Araoz’s plea, I argue that the required first step is to convince national governments that they can manage their own affairs. Once that concept begins to be reconsidered, then each national government can look at the way in which it can increase the prosperity of its people.

We can look at the USA as an example. Prior to the current obsession with globalization, which started about 30 years ago, the USA domestic sales of goods and service was about 94% of GDP. They made stuff and consumed it themselves. It was a happy and prosperous period, when people served each other and shared a national vision. Now domestic sales are about 84% of GDP, and there is considerable angst throughout large sections of the nation.

Higher exports and imports in the USA have had three results:

  1. Many goods are much cheaper now than before, thus making the consumer (who has a job) better off.
  2. Businesses are more able to compete in the export market because they have access to cheaper labor, such as from Mexico.
  3. Whole cities have been devastated by loss of entire industries, and in many once large and prosperous regions of America the people are desperately looking just to survive. The cheap goods are not much use to them.

So one could ask, “Has the move towards free trade been worth the cost?” The answer has to be both yes and no, depending upon who you ask. Winners have won even more, losers have lost most of what they had before.

A new Economic Mechanism from APEC 2016

When it comes to finding a new economic mechanism at APEC 2016, one doesn’t need to be too concerned about developed nations. They have mature democracies, and the voice of the people will guide their leaders to work through the issues that I have discussed. The role of the leaders of APEC 2016 should be to find a new mechanism that will be useful for developing and emerging nations.

Thinking people must know that, while developing nations have improved their national GDP by exporting to the developed world, this is not a very good long-term strategy. If developing nations look forward to a future as just being a source of cheap imports for the West they are condemning themselves to a future of relative poverty. While there is any nation in the world that doesn’t take control of its own destiny, there will always be a cheaper source of labor upon which the West can depend.

Ms Araoz’s plea at APEC 2016 implies the need to create a mechanism that will enable each developing nation to develop a diverse economy, in which all its people can prosper. Such a mechanism would enable the full talents of its own people to be exercised within that nation, with the more skilled and talented being able to raise the (economic) boat for the entire nation.

Yet the question is, “How can this be done when the West owns almost all of the intellectual property, both that which is patented, and that which is inbuilt into their entire economic, government and educational system?”

A 20% Tariff would Level the Playing Field

The APEC and WTO objective of lowering all tariffs to zero rating is entirely misconceived. Such a strategy will not “lift all boats.” Rather, it will trap developing nations in a permanent dependency on the West. If APEC 2016 doesn’t change direction, the meeting can be considered to be a failure.

One of the strategies that could be adopted by APEC 2016 is to support the introduction of an extra 20% tariff across the board. This would give emerging industries in developing countries a chance to find a modest level of support so that they can find their feet. It never needs to be reduced below 20%, unless there really is a compelling case for goods to be 20% cheaper. What would be argument for that? The wealthy getting luxury goods cheaper?

A Hypothetical Example

Let us assume that there is a country with a population of 10 million people. In this country, the top 10% of the population earn 90% of the nation’s income. Most of the rest are either subsistence farmers or poorly paid factory workers. Let us assume that the national GDP is $40 billion, with the top 10% earning $36,000 each per year and the rest earning $450 each per year. In this country 40% of the national income is from exports, and it spends this on imports.

Now let us assume that a 20% tariff is applied across the board in addition to any current tariff. After this, innovative entrepreneurs are likely to see the opportunity to make many of the goods consumed by the top 10%, which were previously imported. As a result, demand for labor increases and whole new class of more highly skilled workers develops. As a result, a number of those previously in the bottom 90% now find themselves in a new echelon of society. Now the society’s division is 20% who command 80% of the nation’s GDP. While some of the relatively very rich will have lost some of their income along the way, following the disruption brought about by this reform, let us say that the nation’s GDP has now grown to $50 billion. All of this extra goes to the new top 20% of the population, so that their average income is now $23,000. This is lower than the previous average of $36,000, but it is spread over more people. The nation is already better off, but nothing has been done from the remaining 80% of the population.

Because there are now more relatively wealthy people, the service sector in the nation can grow as well, thus pushing up both wages and paid activity. The extra $10 million is now spent in the service sector, increasing the nation’s GDP to $60 billion. Most of this will go to the 80% poorer part of the population. This sector previously earned $450 per year; now these 8 million people share in the extra $10 billion, pushing up their average income by $1,250 per year.

Any reasonable and competent government would work towards ensuring that this virtuous circle continues to lift the income of these lower paid workers, through education, and improved skills at work.

Conclusion

It is cringe-worthy of the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to cite 1930s protectionism as if it provides the evidence for embracing free trade. Doesn’t he know that the 1930s were a very difficult period because of the crash of the world economies from over-active speculative activites in the 1920s?

Doesn’t Malcolm Turnbull know that America’s economic powerhouse was built in the 19th century, building its strength behind tariff walls?

Even less excusable, doesn’t Malcolm Turnbull know that the world became a much more prosperous place at the same time as protectionist regimes were in place in most of the nations of the world, namely, in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s?

Rather than protectionism being ridiculous, as Obama and Turnbull seem to think, the arguments presented here are just standard economics. Unfortunately, free trade advocates, many of whom are gathered at APEC 2016 seem to have stopped thinking from first principles, and have adopted a convenient, if bogus, theory.

A “protectionist scenario” has been replayed in every developed nation: it is now being played out in China. Why shouldn’t the rest of the developing world be encouraged to follow the same pattern?