For years, we've been told the dictates of globalization, and the intrusive and prescriptive terms of free trade agreements in particular, are immutable, natural, and unquestionable. When workers were displaced by the migration of multinational capital toward more profitable jurisdictions, we were told there's nothing we can do about it except join the race to the bottom in a desperate attempt to hang onto our jobs. When investment and employment were undermined by lopsided trade and capital flows, and employers and financiers utilized the leverage afforded them by unrestrained international mobility to ratchet the distributional structure of the economy ever-more-blatantly in their own favour, we were informed this was just the logic of markets. And anyone who questioned
In the 1980 U.S. presidential election Republican Ronald Reagan campaigned in Michigan promising to protect autoworker jobs.
A strong U.S. dollar provoked measures to protect U.S. production of autos, steel and textiles against foreign competitors who profited from domestic currency weakness through increased exports to the U.S.
In 1981 Reagan imposed "voluntary" export restraint agreements on Japanese carmakers, who were required to limit their exports to the U.S.