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The great free-trade debate

Business Times - 17 Mar 2009


The great free-trade debate

A consensus is unravelling in Washington amid a Democratic clash over policy

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

PUNDITS tend to describe the debate over trade policy in the Democratic Party of the United States as an ideological clash between the left-oriented protectionist wing of the party (labour unions; environmentalists; anti-globalisation activists) and its more centrist and reformist pro-free trade forces.

But, in fact, whether a Democrat politician is in favour or against an activist global trade liberalisation agenda has less to do with ideology and more to do with class. It is a classic contest between the party's yuppies and its blue collars.

The yuppies represent the economically mobile and college-educated members of the party: Professionals from the large cities, especially in the East and West Coasts, who in addition to being more liberal on socio-cultural issues, such as abortion and gay rights, were also m…