Who really benefits from free trade agreements like TTIP, Ceta and Nafta? | Letters

Letters: The unfettered free trade we have now, based largely upon who can pay least to those producing our goods, is not fair trade. It has run its course

Matthew d’Ancona asserts that “the vigorous exchange of goods and labour is the greatest engine of prosperity the world has ever known” (Brexit meets Trumpism: the new special relationship, 14 November). Had he prefaced his remark with “the fair and vigorous exchange” I might have agreed with him. As it is, his comment is a meaningless mantra. Prosperity for whom? For a few, certainly, but not for millions of people in former manufacturing and mining areas, or for most people in those countries to which manufacturing and mining jobs have been transferred.

Matthew floats a scare story about hugely escalating costs of goods in the absence of free trade. Let me ask him this: would he support the free trade of goods produced by slaves, because it would make things even cheaper? I assume he wouldn’t. But does he support those same goods being produced by people (often children, effectively in forced labour) paid pittances? Seemingly so, because that is the reality of much of current globalisation.

Fair trade should be welcomed. It is innovative and efficient. But the unfettered free trade we have now, based largely upon who can pay least to those producing our goods, is not fair trade. It has run its course. It has failed almost everyone and it is time the left woke up to that fact and grabbed the initiative from the far right, who have been allowed to benefit from the legitimate anger and frustration of ordinary people.
Mike Mosley

• A key lesson we need to draw from Donald Trump’s election is that toxic trade deals like the US-EU agreement TTIP are as unwanted in American society as in Europe. Trump cynically exploited public anger about these deals to win the US presidency. But we know, like Ukip here, that Trump is actually in favour of deregulation, privatisation and putting profit before people. His policies will not serve the interests of working-class communities, they will simply divide them and create the sorts of international tensions that, in previous times, sparked world wars.

TTIP was killed off by a movement of ordinary people who believe in an open, equal and democratic society where diversity is embraced and everyone’s rights are respected. We objected to TTIP because it would be bad for ordinary people and will hand power to big money – to businessmen like Donald Trump.

We know that politicians are now fearful of opposing deals like Ceta – the EU-Canada deal which is currently making its way through the European parliament. This is exactly the wrong lesson to pull from Trump’s election. To defeat the politics of racism and hatred represented by Trump and the far right in Europe, we call on politicians to support economic policies that will benefit the majority of people, eradicate poverty, create decent jobs and good public services and halt climate change. The first step politicians in Europe must take is to vote to stop Ceta in the coming weeks.
Nick Dearden Global Justice Now, Mark Dearn War on Want, Molly Scott Cato Green party MEP, Dave Prentis Unison, Len McCluskey Unite, Kevin Courtney National Union of Teachers, Bert Schouwenburg GMB, Ruth Bergan Trade Justice Movement, Tim Flitcroft NoTTIP UK

• Your report (Trump’s bad jokes test fearful Mexicans’ sense of humour, 14 November) is, presumably, referring to Nafta – the North American Free Trade Agreement – when it says “rules devised in Washington which impoverished Mexico’s interior and sent millions north seeking work”. But Nafta, far from being a unilateral imposition by Washington, was a Mexican initiative, devised by the Salinas administration (1988-94), and concluded after long and arduous bilateral negotiations. While its regional and sectoral impact can be debated (mass Mexican migration to the north long antedated the agreement and, in recent years, net migration has in fact ceased), Nafta has, on balance, benefited Mexico, in part by codifying the economic relationship and curbing American unilateralism. Which is why Trump wants to tear it up and the Mexicans are justifiably worried.
Emeritus Professor Alan Knight
St Antony’s College, Oxford

• How can you claim to be the leading voice for free trade (May sets out Britain’s stall for place in Trump’s world, 14 November) if you are proposing to leave the world’s largest free trade area in order to conclude, if you can, a series of more limited, exclusive, preferential and therefore discriminatory bilateral arrangements with others? Is this global trading?
Anthony Hutton
East Molesey, Surrey

• The new UK economic policy where we will embrace the opportunities of the future is the old smoke and mirrors. The prime minister seems to have overlooked the fact that most of the UK’s large companies are owned by foreign investors. Where will their loyalties lie? Not with the British workers but with their global shareholders. Wake up, Mrs May: we are in huge debt to China, Japanese companies take the profits from our car industry, and the Norwegian sovereign fund owns a large part of Regent Street in London. We can take the lead, but it will be to the advantage of global shareholders, not British workers.
Linda Karlsen
Whitstable, Kent

• Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

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