Over the past two decades, communities across the world have been working to build more just, sustainable and locally based alternatives to the global corporate economy. As a result, pro-local initiatives have grown by leaps and bounds, including farmers markets, food cooperatives,“buy local” and “move your money” campaigns, small business alliances, and local renewable energy projects. However,“free“ trade treaties are a mortal threat to local economies worldwide. Like trade treaties before them, the TPP and TTIP facilitate a race to the bottom that favors large, mobile corporations at the expense of local producers, small businesses, and workers. What’s more, these treaties subordinate local democracy to corporate interests, and hamstring the ability of communities to shift direction toward more prosperous local economies. To continue the inspiring success of their movements, localists need to join the global resistance against these treaties.Ever since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was proposed more than 20 years ago, critics have warned about the negative implications of “free” trade treaties and other efforts to deregulate global trade and investment. Today, after two decades of deregulation, the impacts are exactly as feared: endemic unemployment and economic ‘precarity’, massive social dislocation in the global North and South, a widening gap between rich and poor, financial instability, growing hunger and food insecurity, and the weakening of public interest laws meant to protect people and the environment. Meanwhile, global corporations and big banks have grown larger and ever more powerful.
Thanks to “free” trade treaties, corporations have become unfettered and less rooted to place: in a global “race to the bottom” they can move wherever wages and benefits are low, and where tax rules and social and environmental laws are weak. This race imposes a downward pressure on wages, and compels every level of government to reduce sorely needed taxes and protective regulations, or risk losing businesses and jobs. As footloose corporations and speculative capital move from one place to another in search of profit, they leave behind shattered communities, economic insecurity, gutted regulations, and forced bankruptcy.