Among the many layers of the multi-valanced meanings of the word “nationalism” used recently by Donald Trump during a campaign rally in support of Ted Cruz (R-Texas), one that emerges without much scrutiny has been its opposition to “globalists.” A globalist, Trump declared, “is a person who wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much. And you know what? We can’t have that.” To say that previous American trade negotiations have been made in the interests of other nations clearly invokes a kind of doublespeak. In numerous agreements, trade negotiations have overwhelmingly benefitted American corporations and farmers at the expense of other countries’ own business, farming, and health interests.
Big (American) Tobacco’s Benefit from “Globalism”
This can be seen in the many instances in which American tobacco corporations through trade agreements have lobbied for and secured the liberalization of international tobacco trade. In the 1990s, this led to World Trade Organization agreements in which import tariffs on tobacco products were reduced, subsequently increasing the flow of tobacco products marketed to their people. The results were conclusive. A study conducted by the World Health Organization and the World Bank found a 5% rise in tobacco consumption worldwide and corresponding mortality rates.
Trade and investment rules, as dictated by trade agreements, have typically guaranteed market access for American corporations, forcing trading nations to open themselves to American products, even when those governments conclude that those products pose a serious health risk. In 2010, for instance, when Uruguay sought to initiate a campaign of health warnings on cigarette packages, Bramall and Keenlyside reported in The Guardian, “Philip Morris launched a $25m claim against Uruguay after it introduced graphic warnings on cigarette packs. Though Uruguay successfully defended the measure, it still faced millions in legal costs. And Philip Morris effectively won, as Costa Rica and Paraguay held off introducing similar measures.”
Who Benefits from “Globalism”?: A Political Straw Man
The same tactics have been taken up by legal teams for other large American interests, threatening costly suits against those nations that resist American incursions into their markets. As Bramall and Keenlyside (2017) point out, “Big oil, big pharma and big mining follow the same playbook, launching investment arbitration cases to defend their business models from governments that would regulate to protect public health, the local environment or the climate.”
The record clearly shows that globalism, as practiced by American businesses, has not sought to benefit other nations. American corporations have a clearly defined interest in extending their markets into other nations, even at the cost of those people’s health and environmental welfare. It would seem, then, that what Trump has done here is to erect a straw man for his own purposes. In this instance, the juxtaposition of nationalism to globalism gives Trump a means of rallying his base against an imaginary wrong, using the dog whistle of “nationalism” to signal to his supporters that it’s okay to be (White) nationalists once again. In the future, the stigma of globalist may be used to justify future bullying by American corporations, but for now, it gives license to yet another strategy for dividing the nation.
Bramall, M., & Keenlyside, P. (2017, July 17). Big tobacco bullies the global south. Trade deals are their biggest weapons. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com