On Lori Wallach

Lori Wallach has just toured New Zealand on an anti-TPPA speaking tour with Jane Kelsey. Both are long time campaigners against international trade agreements, globalisation and corporations.

Wallach founded the Global Trade Watch section of Public Citizen in 1995. From her profile on their website:

Lori Wallach has promoted the public interest regarding globalization and international commercial agreements in every forum: Congress and foreign parliaments, the courts, government agencies, the media, and the streets.

For 20 years Wallach has played a prominent role in the United States and internationally in the roiling debate over the terms of globalization.

As a relentless campaigner, Wallach has played an important role in creating public debate and supporting public activism about the implications of different models of globalization on jobs, livelihoods, and wages; the environment; public health and safety; and democratically accountable governance.

I’ve seen Wallach speak on the Auckland meeting live stream and have now seen her speak in person in Dunedin.

She wrote Whose Trade Organization? A Comprehensive Guide to the WTO, published in 2004. At Amazon this book as several 5 star reviews that look like promotions, balanced by as many 2-3 star reviews. One of these sounds quite a bit like how Wallach came across in her anti-TPPA speeches.

October 6, 2005
I had to read Whose Trade Organization for a graduate level political science course. The books is perfect for those arguing on the anti-globalization side of the debate and may be somewhat useful for those who argue for limited or slow globalization reforms.

Unfortunately the book has clouded and conflated issues, subscribes to fallacious reasoning, and blatantly ignores empirical evidence. Whether she is pushing an ideological viewpoint or ignorant of reality is another question that I won’t answer..

There is absolutely no evidence that suggests more free trade creates poverty. Evidence suggests the opposite. The real income of third world labor (As happened in the first world in the 19th century) is on the rise, not decline. Yes there is an “inequality” in this rise, but global society is rising as a whole. To suggest this inequality is wrong or bad is to make the assumption that the wealth of the world is a zero sum game…which it is not. Looking at relative gains in economics is a fallacious way of viewing the world.

There is also no evidence that suggests that more economic openness, also known as economic freedom, reduces democracy. As a matter of fact the overwhelming empirical evidence suggests that the more open a society is the more civil and political freedoms citizens enjoy. Countries who suppress economic trade tend to be far less democratic but most often tyrannical dictatorships.

The author seems to subscribe to an idea that democracy is defined by action a government can take, specifically, action in regard to the political majority. She believes that increasing globalization (more importantly classic liberalism: for non political and econ types this means free trade and limited government) will reduce democracy by reducing governments ability to take action to “solve problems” or through accountability to the people.

The reality is…again the opposite. In no way can anyone construe a political majority as being an example of governmental accountability. This is what classic theorists described as a tyranny of the majority, where a group votes themselves the wealth of the nation at the expense of the minority. In modern times such notions of majority rule led to segregation, discrimination, and everyone’s favorite: Nazi Germany, who by the way were elected to lead Germany democratically. Who seriously wants to argue that democracy is defined by majority rule?

She also confuses government action with government sovereignty. Yes, governments will lose sovereignty over economic policies through globalization. But this by no means demonstrates a loss of accountability to the people. Again she is conflating government action with the will (tyranny) of the majority and assuming this is accountability.

The fact is that the policy preferences she desires produce the results she hates. Governments who retain the ability to economically discriminate (set up protections) give a great deal of power to the capital owners in that society. They are effectively able to protect their capital from outside competition at the expense of the domestic consumer who must now pay high prices for goods. At the international level, foreign producers find themselves restricted as to where they can import and as a result labor in those countries find themselves unable to develop and pull themselves up from poverty. Corporations learn to use government intervention to their own advantage at the expense of society.

She also operates under the fallacious assumption that corporations seeking their own advantage under a free market will reduce democracy and, as the anti globalization protestors like to scream, a “tyranny of profits” or rule by corporation. That simply isn’t the case, nor possible. Competition between corporations will increase greatly, reducing any political power you think they wield now. Because voluntary transaction is the rule of the game for free trade, corporations will only be able to attract profits by getting customers to purchase products or services. With competition in the mix each company must do their best to attract customers by being the best, having the highest quality, the lowest price good, or a combination of these or other issues. The result is simple, corporations are accountable to the people because their survival depends on it! Those corporations who are unable to give the people want the want in the market either die out or innovate and try again. Furthermore, limited governments under free trade won’t be able to take action to give corporations special privileges…special privileges that make “special interests” possible.

I find it absolutely silly to argue that corporations are taking advantage of everyone and then follow it up with an argument for more government intervention. I find it even sillier to want to help the third world poor and then argue economic protection for first world industries and agriculture from weak and developing third world industries and agriculture.

The problem is not the WTO it is globalization that is maturing in a world that still accepts an archaic form of global trade: mercantilism. Scholars like these conflate mercantilist-capitalism with free trade-capitalism and assume all the negative aspects of protectionism (a mix of voluntary and coercive transactions) will occur under a system of free trade (voluntary transaction). Mercantilism and Free Trade are polar opposites and neither are necessary conditions for globalization (that is globalization can occur under either, I believe). The on balance will ONLY be positive for the world if Free Trade is the rule set, which is what the WTO pushes. Mercantilism, socialism, communism will only make poverty worse, stagnate economies, restrict innovation, exploit the consumer, and result in a very privileged elite at the expense of society.

Overall, the book is incorrect in its assessment of opening trade and reducing trade restrictions. The results of which will not be more poverty or a reduction in democracy. The book is the result of years of fallacious reasoning, clouded facts, and illogical arguments.


Dunedin anti-TPP meeting

I went to the anti-TPPA meeting in Dunedin last night. It was the fourth and last of a series of meetings that started in Auckland on Tuesday featuring Jane Kelsey and Lori Wallach.

Wallach founded a division of Public Citizen called Global Trade Watch in the US in 1995.

GTW advocates for a greater public role in international, federal, state and local policy-making, and for a different set of policies and institutions than those governing the current model of globalization.

So like Kelsey she is a long time campaigner against trade deals and Government policies.

I was disappointed that the MP panel didn’t travel to Dunedin. I don’t know if the panel featured in Wellington or Christchurch.

So the meeting just comprised of speeches by Kelsey and Wallach with some input from organiser Jen Olsen, a member of TPP Action Dunedin. It concluded with a Q & A.

The venue was too small and a number of people had to cram in and stand. At one stage Kelsey asked younger people to stand to let older people sit. I had gone early to make sure I got a seat so didn’t give it up. There were mostly older people there.

The speeches covered much the same content as the Auckland speeches – I had watched that meeting on live stream, and there is video of it here.

I was interested to see how Kelsey and Wallach came across in person.

Some of the crowd liked their presentation and content. Others didn’t, including me.

I already knew what to expect, but someone I know who went wanting to be informed but were disappointed by the sneering, crassness and lack of substance.

To me they generally came across as shrill fanatics trying to present themselves as factual and reasoned, but failing to back up many of their assertions.

I had expected a fairly biased campaign against the TPPA and against the Government but it was more extreme and less classy than I had envisaged.

Kelsey and Wallach are like the Mana Party or The Daily Blog in relation to mainstream politics in New Zealand.

Kelsey opened her speech by saying that the TPPA was political.

She went on to explain how her campaign was aimed at carrying on to next year’s election with the aim of getting an anti-TPPA government voted in.

She is very political for a university law professor. And near the leftmost edges of the political spectrum.

That’s what the anti-TPPA campaigning seems to be, a means of promoting a significant shift left in our government.

The organiser of the meetings is Barry Coates, next available person on the Green Party list.

Last term the Greens used anti-asset sales as their term long campaign strategy, unsuccessfully.

It seems to me that anti-TPPA is what New Zealand’s left has chosen to use as this term’s tool to trash National and take over the running of the country.

Kelsey and Wallach appear to love the limelight and share the political aims but I suspect they are being used by a wider campaign to swing New Zealand more towards socialism than Key has taken us.

Kelsey and Wallach preached to a crowd that mostly (or partly, it was hard to gauge actual levels of support) didn’t need convincing by facts or reasoned arguments, they were already converted.

But most of the wider public know little about the TPPA and understand it less. I doubt that it will be an election changer.

Having said that it could be looking at the shambles that Labour are making of their TPPA management.

TPPA: Don’t Sign meeting tonight

The TPPA: Don’t Sign meeting will be held at the Auckland Town Hall tonight at 7 pm. It will be live streamed at The Daily Blog.

Jane Kelsey posted at The Daily Blog:

TPPA:Don’t Sign – Fill the Auckland Town Hall tomorrow (Tues) 7pm

PM John Key and his National government say most Kiwis support the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and those who don’t are ignorant or manipulated.
Show him he’s wrong.

Hear dynamic, funny, and scary US former trade attorney and TPPA expert Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen Global Trade Watch, on how the US politics may sink the TPPA.

Jane Kelsey will explain the highlights of the expert papers saying what the TPPA would really mean for Kiwis.

A political panel will tell us why they oppose the signing of the TPPA:
Grant Robertson, Labour; Metiria Turei, Greens; Marama Fox, Maori Party; and Fletcher Tabuteau, NZ First.

The speaking tour is being sponsored by Its Our Future, Action Station, NZ Council of Trade Unions and First Union.

Perhaps there’s no workers involved in export or import companies in NZ Council of Trade Unions or First Union.

Interesting to see Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson opposing the signing and opposing the TPPA.

Yes, it is our future, and how that works out for New Zealand will depend on trade. The Trans Pacific Partnership should improve trade opportunities a bit.



Anti-TPPA actions and lack of choice

A series of protest meetings around the country have been planned prior to the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, which seems to be scheduled to take place in Auckland on February 4.

It is likely these meetings were being organised before the signing date was publicised this week.

Andrew Little said in a radio interview last week he knew the signing was planned for early February:

You know I just I am stunned, I was stunned to hear when I was in Washington DC that they are where lining up the 4th of February as a date for the Ministerial signing of the agreement, and I said to some of them, I said are you nuts?

So if Little knew about the signing schedule then presumably others did too, giving time to organise these meetings, which involves international speaker Lori Wallach.

Lori Wallach is the Director and Founder of Global Trade Watch, a division of Public Citizen. She is an expert and activist in global trade issues. Wallach has testified before Congress about the effect NAFTA, WTO, and other free trade agreements have on global citizens. She has played a significant role in the negotiations of many free trade agreements by acting as a consumer watch dog.

Books include: “The WTO: Five Years of Reasons to Resist Corporate Globalization” (1999)

– Wikipedia

Not surprisingly Wallach has associations with Jane Kelsey. They both appear to have spoken at another event in Auckland last month, according to this on the Fabian Society website:

TPP Out of the Shadows – Jane Kelsey & Lori Wallach

What they won’t tell us and why we should be worried about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Two of the world’s foremost critical voices on international free trade and investment agreements — Lori Wallach and Jane Kelsey — will deliver presentations and take questions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

December 3rd, 2012 6:30 PM   through   8:00 PM
University of Auckland
Old Government House Lecture Theatre
20 Princes St
Auckland, AUK
New Zealand

Two old campaigners against international trade agreements.

Kelsey is also campaigning via media:

Jane Kelsey: Secrecy on signing aims to thwart protest

On February 4, the Government intends to defy popular opinion and host the signing of the secretly negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in Auckland. We had to hear that from other governments.

Bookings at the height of holiday season would have been made months ago, yet our Government initially said no decision had been made and this week admitted it will be signed in Auckland but won’t say when or where.

One obvious reason for the secrecy is to thwart potential protests, a further example of the TPP trumping democratic rights. Never before has a New Zealand Government tried to sell such an unpopular international treaty.

But as well as the meetings there are likely to be other organised protest events.

An Action Station survey:

Leanne Watkins
If you’d like a say in the next actions –
Action station have launched a survey
You have until 6pm, before big planning meeting at 6.30

Here are their action suggestions:


Framing the narrative:




Action Station are a very well organised protest movement.  Like Wallach and Kelsey they are against trade agreements.

Greenpeace are also campaigning against the TPPA: Say no to the TPPA


But it seems that Wallach, Kelsey, Action Station and Greenpeace are not for choice. They oppose the TPPA and trade agreements.

Note the contradiction:

Say no to the TPPA

Say yes to choice

They oppose, they don’t actually want to promote choice.

If they were actually interested in and serious about democracy they would offer choices for both sides of the TPPA argument.