While free trade has led to development in some countries, they have led to economic instability in others. This is another reason why free trade is treated with skepticism by some governments. What is most worrisome about free trade in the modern world is the vacuous nature of the term, as it is stripped of its substantive meaning. In other words, where there is conflict between the execution of this system in its ideal form and the consequences for major business corporations, it is always the interests of the latter that is looked after. This is nowhere more clearly visible than in the history of NAFTA (North American Free-Trade Agreement). The terminology can be a little deceptive here, for despite claims of being a ‘free-trade’ agreement, it has many protectionist provisions in it. A brief survey of the effects of NAFTA on the general population reveals that American, Mexican and Canadian elites have seen most of its benefits. Despite initial promise of creating more jobs for Americans, under the NAFTA regime many industries were moved to Mexico, due to cheaper labor there. (Ciccantell, 2001, p.57) The key long term goal for the U.S is not so much the establishment of free-trade practices in the neighborhood as it is to reconstruct its hegemony that was formerly seized by Japan and Europe. In the last two decades, the manufacturing sector in the United States has virtually collapsed, leaving tens of thousands of workers unemployed. Similarly, the effects of NAFTA can be partially attributed to the problem of illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States. A salient question at this point is whether such a steep social/national cost worth bearing for the sake of American hegemony? (Worth & Kuhling, 2004, p.31)
In this context, it is apt to say that global free trade arrangements have failed to lead to uniform development. It is for key failures in many human development areas that the doctrine of laissez-faire capitalism is not accepted without contestation. While there are obvious success stories like India, China and South East Asian bloc, much of the rest of the world has not benefitted. It is in response to these failures that the global solidarity movement has arisen, which protest the prevalent norms of free trade. Centered on universal human challenges like poverty-reduction, access to basic healthcare, free education for all children, social welfare for the disadvantaged, etc, the global solidarity movement presents an alternative operative framework to the United States led global capitalist project. In a few decades time, it is plausible that this more pragmatic form of social organization might have quelled American hegemony in economic, cultural and political domains and might have eliminated the need for economic globalization. (Zakaria, 1999, p.9) The brewing discontent with the excesses of capitalism has spawned a new ideological alternative – consistent with the Hegelian notion of the dialectic. This promising counter-current has Marxist underpinnings to it, but it would be simplistic to term it as a throwback to the failed experiment with communism or socialism. While retaining the essence of socialism, Third-World solidarity movement attempts to cater to humankind’s basic necessities in an atmosphere of co-operation and collaboration as opposed to exploitation. (Dunkley, 2004, p.53)
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