Vietnamese chicken farmers already see the writing on the wall from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. After NAFTA was passed, American food products, especially corn, flooded the Mexican market. That made it impossible for Mexican corn farmers to compete. Conveniently for American corporations, that led to millions of Mexicans leaving their land and requiring work that working in maquiladoras for low wages would provide. And if it didn’t, there was plenty of low-wage work in the United States if those former farmers could sneak across the border without being caught or killed.
Well, Vietnamese farmers are unlikely to migrate to the U.S., but they will be likely to lose their land and go to the cities to compete for the unsafe factory jobs making products for the American market that drives the TPP. That’s because American chicken companies are about to flood Vietnam with their poultry. In fact, it’s already happening. From the first link.
Vietnam’s poultry sector is expected to be one of the hardest hit by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) when the free trade deal falls into place.
Experts say Vietnamese chicken, long crippled by low technology and high production costs, will not be able to compete with chicken imports from the world’s top producers. However, others say that taste may be more important than price.
In Hanoi, chicken pho is not authentic unless it is made with local free-range chicken, or ga ta in Vietnamese. Almost double the price of factory chicken, ga ta’s competitive advantage is product differentiation.
“Vietnamese free-range chicken has a plumpness and shine to it,” said celebrity chef Nguyen Phuong Hai. “The meat isn’t too tough nor too soft, and the skin is crunchy, not fatty. But industrial chicken is different, the meat is too soft, the thigh is dry and falls apart.”
Won’t matter, as we know. That cheap, tasteless, awful American chicken will win out. And while the facile analysis is that this is great for everyone except those chicken farmers and the taste buds of consumers because now chicken will be cheaper, let’s also note that it will also make Vietnam more dependent upon international commodity processes and make the poor less able to eat if those prices rise. This is what we saw in Mexico in 2007 when international corn prices skyrocketed, making the staff of life in that nation very hard for the poor to eat. This was a major domestic issue in Mexico and brought the downsides of NAFTA home for a lot of people. There’s no reason that this can’t happen in Vietnam and likely will at some point. And if the poor of Vietnam are competing with Americans for chicken supplies and prices rise, well, we all know who won’t be eating meat for awhile.
Ultimately, what international trade should do is give people reasonable options to work in decent paid jobs in factories or stay and farm. It should promote nations working together while also allowing domestic industries to survive for cultural and political reasons. But of course it doesn’t work that way. What these trade agreements do is allow American corporations to devastate local industries, throw people off their land and out of work, force them into factories to work for cheap, and then send the vast majority of profits to their shareholders’ pockets. That’s what NAFTA did and that’s what the TPP is going to do.