Now that we have shown countries in Asia need to have the dominant position in trade deals as a matter of government policy, let’s take a look at what happens when the West ignores trade inequality for decades and turns a blind eye to the abuses that are required to produce products as cheaply as possible.
I’ve never heard any other politician talk about a viable solution to the global race to the bottom. In that scenario, everything in the world is manufactured as cheaply as possible which results in everyone living in poverty.
I learned in Economics 101 that free trade is beneficial because each country manufactures products they have a competitive advantage in. When countries trade those products everyone benefits, in theory anyway.
That sounds fine, but the real world isn’t an academic research paper. What they didn’t foresee is Armageddon. Eventually, each product is produced by the country/factory/culture that places the lowest value on human life and the environment, which basically means products are produced where people and the Earth are abused the most. If a country wants to gain an advantage back, they have to abuse even more.
It’s no secret that many of the most profitable industries in Asia have been built on the backs of slave and immigrant labor. Fishing, construction, and farming are just a few that come to mind. People in the West often turn a blind eye to those working conditions because they get to buy products cheaply. The US and Europe threatened to blacklist Thai seafood last year, but it was most likely just a political move to apply pressure in other areas since most of the changes here have only been cosmetic.
It’s time that Western consumers wake up and stop thinking about just the price of consumer goods. They need to think about the working conditions and sacrifices of the people who make them. Who wants to eat seafood caught by people forced to work on a small boat in the middle of the ocean 20 hours a day for 3 months without a day off? Is that human sacrifice worth it for cheap food?
If the US and EU imposed tariffs on Thai seafood, Western consumers would have to pay more and it may help their domestic fishing industries, but then Thai boat slaves would probably lose their jobs unless Thailand could find other markets that don’t care as much about human rights. Some might say those workers are better off doing something as slave labor rather than being completely unemployed, but that doesn’t create the type of world most people want to live in.
While I hope most people realize cheap prices on goods produced by slaves isn’t right, consumers are not willing to take a stand and stop purchasing those products. It’s then up to governments to stop the import of those products, but often good politicians are incapacitated by ridiculous scandals that remove them from office.