Free Trade with Haiti harmful, admits Bill Clinton

Posted on March 22nd, 2010 by James

In the mid 1990′s, then President Bill Clinton convinced Haiti it would be a great idea to lower tariffs on rice imported from the U.S. And it was great- for U.S. rice farmers.

But Clinton recently admitted that this policy, along with other free trade/neoliberal policies, have really been detrimental to Haiti. Read more in this article at the Huffington Post.

This mirrored what happened in Mexico after NAFTA was passed (also under President Clinton). In one example, tariffs were lowered for importing pork from the US to Mexico, and the US heavily subsidized pork production in the US. Far from being a fair playing field, pork producers in Mexico were unable to compete, and went out of business. Immigration to the US skyrocketed after NAFTA was signed as more and more farmers were put out of business. (You can read a paper I wrote on NAFTA & Immigration here.)

Likewise, the number of Haitian immigrants in the U.S. has doubled since 1990.

The article above says that the damage in Haiti went even further than putting farmers out of business. This agreement, along with other factors like tons of aid, ruined the entire food production industry of Haiti. Now, with the earthquake interrupting the importation of food, they’re finding there isn’t enough food in the country to sustain them. And hunger and starvation has been a problem for years.

Free trade. “Free” sounds like it’s an excellent thing. And maybe it would be, if it was free trade between equal parties. But sadly, the powerful countries have used it to their own benefit, at the severe detriment of poorer countries. And the people who made those deals are still eating well- it’s the people they govern who suffer.

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