Confronting Power, Money, and Most Economists

The Class Action of the Anti-Free Trade Movement


  • Marjorie Cohen



free trade, NAC, coalition building, CUSFTA, NAFTA, trade policy, neoliberalism


The Canadian anti-free trade movement was a genuine ‘movement’ that originated locally in many different places throughout the country and was soon consolidated in a loose coalition at the national level. It was extraordinary for several reasons.  First, it brought together a large number of groups that had never worked with each other before and their coalitions were strong and effective.   Second, it was a movement based on class issues and was understood that way by its leaders and most of those who participated in it.  Third, it democratized thinking and knowledge about economic policy, and this, in turn, meant that many groups and issues that were normally absent from a discussion of macro-economic policy, became central to the debate.   Fourth, the anti-free trade movement grew in relation to the specific issues of regions and groups but the critical arguments that developed over time focused on the problems of having market mechanisms dominate both the economic and social spheres. This scrutiny and discussion of the market system itself has not been replicated in debates on any subsequent major policy issue.