Matt Stoller has kindly agreed to let us run his entire posts on the origin of NAFTA from his site, Observations On Credit And Surveillance:
I’m going to do a series on the origins of NAFTA, because it’s a weird ride that happened over several decades.
This hearing, in a 1967 discussion of what to do after the completion of a significant round of global tariff reductions, is the first place where NAFTA is mentioned in the Congressional record. Only, it is mentioned by Kenneth Younger, a British scholar, ex-intelligence official, and ex-MP. Younger speaks about NAFTA in the context of Britain choosing between the nascent European Union and a North Atlantic equivalent. Yes, in this case, NAFTA stood for North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, not North American Free Trade Agreement. But Canada would play a big part, and Mexico was also peripherally involved, as you’ll see.
The guiding globalist ideology behind this is critical to understood. Last year, I wrote a piece for Salon on how European and American elites really did want to create a One World government. This movement was sparked by a 1939 book called “Union Now” by Altanticist Clarence Streit, in which Streit argued that warding off fascism, communism, depression, and world war could only happen in the context of world unity. Far from being a fringe idea, Streit’s concept was endorsed by every major Presidential candidate from 1950-1972, except LBJ and Ronald Reagan. Resolutions supporting Streit’s concept passed the House several times, and a delegation and conference even happened in 1960.
Streit’s idea, though it sounds outlandish now, was mainstream in the 1930s, somewhat similar to Tom Friedman’s Lexus and the Olive Tree, only with less stupid elites. The United Nations is called the United Nations, for a reason. But lots of other institutions, like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the North American Treaty Organization, aren’t subtle about it either.Our trade policies derive from Streit’s geopolitical utopian vision. I’ll get to that in a later post, specifically on liberal internationalist George Ball’s comments in this hearing.
Ball argued that our trade policy was key to getting rid of nation-states altogether, and for allowing multinationals to rule the world. He saw the multinational corporation as the ideal resource management vehicle, the very pinnacle of progress and perfection.
But that ideology was boiled down into pragmatic actionable steps by Chase CEO David Rockefeller, when he testified before Congress in July of 1967. Rockefeller spoke about about what eventually would become NAFTA, and suggested it begin with a US-Canada free trade area, which is what happened in the 1980s. Then, he suggested Mexico could be tacked on later, which also happened, in 1994. He also suggested that Britain could join, if a deal with Europe couldn’t happen. In this way, American diplomats could pressure Europe and the UK into becoming a common political entity, which was central to American goal of ensuring that Western Europe would never again devolve into a war zone.
Trade, in other words, has never been about efficiency, it has always been about geopolitics.
But in solving one problem, of political and economic union, these policymakers created another. In this hearing, we hear rumblings about tackling non-tariff barriers to trade, which are the genesis of the investor-state tribunals that have reorganized lawmaking. Just a few years later, Nixon got rid of Bretton Woods monetary controls, which privatized capital flows. And trade eventually became a fulcrum for reorganizing the world into a place where multinationals organized all global resource flows and supply chains. Now we are dealing with the world they wrought.
You can download the full hearing here, though it’s a large PDF file.
In this series of hearings, the Joint Economic Committee, which is a bicameral group composed of both House and Senate members, was looking to the future of US trade policy. The ‘Kennedy round’ of global trade negotiations had just been completed, which ironically took place under his successor, Lyndon Johnson.