I am an unabashed promoter of international trade and investment.   A fearless defender of “globalization” which in today’s “globe” means greater economic  integration.  Note, I say “economic integration” and not political integration.  Economic integration is light years ahead of political integration.  And it is the private sector that has moved economic integration so far ahead of political integration, with the public sector lagging behind.

We are now at a turning point.   Until now we have been convinced that public actions have led the way in economic integration using our multilateral and bilateral trade agreements to foster greater trade and investment.  A prime example here is the North American Free Trade Agreement better known by its acronym, NAFTA.  We have seen trade and investment between the US, Canada and Mexico boom since adoption of the agreement.

While in Mexico I wrote papers used in formulating the NAFTA accord.  I pressed for its adoption.  While doing so I was warned by a colleague that the agreement may not be adopted. I replied that it did not matter, NAFTA was describing what had already happened, not what would happen.  By the time it was adopted 9 of the 10 largest exporting companies in Mexico were owned by American companies.  And those same companies dominated Mexico’s internal market.  NAFTA would only formalize and add some legal structure to what was already in place.

But a new development has taken place.  President Obama has gone to Japan with the main intention of signing a new trade agreement with that country.  However, the Japanese have put the accord on hold and prospects for it ever seeing the light of day are dim.  Why this turn of events?  There are many speculations but I would suggest that the main reason is that the private sector no longer sees the need for government involvement in international trade and investment.  Rather than seeing government support as a good, the private sector sees government involvement in “globalization” as a hindrance, if not deal breaker.

When working with American companies as a diplomat I always asked if the companies viewed government as a support or as an obstacle to their efforts.  Our mutual conclusion was that it was a close race.  It appeared to both sides that, for every assist from the public sector, it threw up a barrier to private enterprise working globally.

I now believe that the private sector has dropped all interest in government involving itself in formulating and building a global economy.  It sees more harm than good coming from government.  Witness greater government efforts to control and direct international movement of investment funds.  Witness using  domestic interests such as high unemployment in formulating trade and investment agreements.

I believe that the stalled agreement with Japan is the final block in a series of stalled trade and investment pacts that spell the end of government influence in the course of the global economy.  The private sector wants to proceed without public sector “baggage.”