Trading Freedom: How Free Trade Affects Our Lives, Work and Environment


138 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-921284-59-4
DDC 382'.71'097





Edited by John Cavanagh et al
Reviewed by Graham Adams, Jr.

Graham Adams, Jr., is a professor of American history at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.


Few public issues have stimulated as much interest as free trade, which
dominated the 1988 Canadian federal election and, in the form of NAFTA,
provoked fierce controversy in the U.S. Congress. This volume comprises
anti-free trade commentaries by a variety of critics.

Originally intended to counter European economic consolidation and
Japanese expansionism, free trade promised greater prosperity and fuller
employment. Yet, these writers claim, neither Canada nor the United
States achieved these objectives. Wages in the United States declined by
10 percent during the 1980s, while Canada did not secure its expected
access to American markets. Under NAFTA, the authors predict, the ill
effects of free trade will only multiply. Mexico already serves as a
haven for foreign investors seeking low-wage labor, as exemplified by
more than 1800 plants that have mushroomed along its northern border.
Since Mexico rarely enforces its environmental and human-rights laws,
many of these factories have become sweatshops whose waste products
pollute the surrounding areas. There is little possibility, according to
the contributors, that wages will rise sufficiently under NAFTA to stem
the massive migration of Mexican workers to America.

These analysts conclude that the best substitute for free trade is
direct participation in economic decision-making by grassroots citizens.
Alert and active people’s coalitions and alliances should challenge
the power of unrepresentative corporate elites by demanding decent
working conditions and forcing compliance with environmental codes.
However, although these activities may modify some of the less desirable
effects of free trade, they hardly constitute major changes in global
economic policy. A scissors-and-paste selection of opinions drawn from a
multitude of sources, this study lacks cohesive unity. It scores many a
telling point against free trade, but its failure to provide
satisfactory comprehensive alternatives weakens its case.


“Trading Freedom: How Free Trade Affects Our Lives, Work and Environment,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,