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Free Trade And Baseball
Published on Tuesday, June 6, 2000 in the Cape Cod Times
Free Trade And Baseball
by Sean Gonsalves
 
Presidential candidate Alph Trader says free trade is at the center of his campaign. Last night on PNN's Harry Queen Live, Trader said, "Protectionism and socialism have been relegated to the dustbin of history and anyone who's against HAFTA (Help America Free Trade Agreement) is a nincompoop."

He pointed to the success of the North American Free Trade Agreement as proof positive that knocking down trade barriers is the key to American and foreign prosperity. The most controversial aspect of HAFTA is that it seeks to expand the baseball market, exporting the game throughout the hemisphere.

"Those Mexican farmers who were put out of business by huge multi-national agricultural corporations under NAFTA are now proud maliquadora workers. NAFTA created jobs. And the consumer wins. Our amigos down South make great cars and TV sets at a low cost, which is why we all pay less at the store," Trader said.

"HAFTA will prove to be another boon to the economy," he said.

But HAFTA is opposed by fringe segments of the Republican Party who say they want to save one of America's most cherished past-times. And Democrat-supporting labor groups are against the trade agreement between the U.S., Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Latin America, saying it's an assault on working families who were able to afford bleacher tickets.

"No baseball in America. It just doesn't seem right," said Tom Jackson, president of the Professional Baseball Players Union.

"For the love of the game," Hollywood actor Kevin Costner exclaimed.

Echoing arguments made prominent by MIT professor Saul Krugged, Trader took strong exception to HAFTA criticism.

"First of all, baseball is still going to be on television. So every household in America still has access. HAFTA opponents say they care about jobs and the working conditions of vendors and field workers there but they want to deny them the jobs that will be created by this," Trader said.

Dominicans and Cubans are more productive and are generally better than American baseball players, Trader added. "It's a classic case of comparative advantage."

Also the climate is better, he said, making it unnecessary to build expensive domed stadiums. "The season will be extended an additional two months. How can you beat that - less cost; more baseball?"

Since two thirds of pro baseball players in America are from the Caribbean or Latin America, there was not much player opposition when team owners began moving longtime U.S.-based teams to the players' former homelands.

Labor leaders accuse team owners of abandoning American cities in favor of 100 percent taxpayer subsidized stadium-resorts in tropical countries after voters across the nation rejected the public funding of U.S. stadiums.

"We are bringing baseball to a whole new market. It's an offer advertisers can't refuse really," said Theodore Barnes of the Egghead Institute, a think tank that specializes in entertainment economics.

Trader says it's a win-win situation. With Concordes flying corporate executives in for games, the tourist economy of these poor regions will be a rising tide that lifts all boats.

"It will create more hotel and restaurant industry in these poor nations and they'll be buying more of our hot dogs, beef for hamburgers, T-shirts, sports apparel and our fine beers," Trader said.

Trader shrugged off criticism that non-union players will be doing more work for less and that low or non-existent health and safety standards in those countries put vendors and field maintenance workers in jeopardy.

"Some of those hot dog vendors keep the franks in three-day old water with those little oil bubbles floating around," Jackson countered.

"We can't impose our values on them. But the free market will make it all better," Trader responded. "I find it ironic that big labor and all these activists were pushing for an end to the Cuban embargo and now that we want to include Cuba in the global economy, they're opposed to it."

Reform Party candidate Patrick Loosecannon said that HAFTA will destroy American jobs and kill a longtime American tradition.

"This is baseball we're talking. We ought to close down the borders and not allow any foreigners to play it. Besides, Roger Clemens is better than Pedro Martinez," he said.

But even conservative columnist and baseball aficionado Will George supports HAFTA and calls Loosecannon a "pompous, protectionist pol, playing on the paranoia of the public."

Trader made reference to a recent PNN poll that found that 73 percent of all Americans want more baseball and that 61 percent think Sammy Sosa is an all-around better player than Mark McGwire.

Opinions vary but most experts agree that HAFTA will become even more important as elections near, and as Congress holds closed-door sessions discussing the matter.

Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and syndicated columinist. He can be reached via email: sgonsalves@capecodonline.com

Copyright 2000 Cape Cod Times.

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