Free trade is one of the greatest liberating forces on earth—why is it so unpopular?by John McTernan / May 4, 2016 / Leave a comment
“Trade! Huh! Who is it good for? Absolutely everyone!” As, Edwin Starr didn’t write. But seriously, why, given the fact that trade creates jobs and growth, cuts prices and pays our wages, is it so unpopular?
The latest sign of the low regard in which trade is held is the announcement by French President Francois Hollande that he will never sign up to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership—a proposed trade deal between the US and the European Union—in its current form. Some see that as a death knell for the agreement, though the ambition of a deal being done within three years—as was the original timetable—was an overstretch. Trade treaties do, though, traditionally take years to complete. The Doha Round of trade negotiations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has been going since 2001 and paused since 2008. This is more than a sobering counter to the notion that post-Brexit an EU-UK trade deal would be rapidly forthcoming.
Free trade is progressive. Consider the case that Mike Moore makes—no, not that one; he is former Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand and former Director-General of the World Trade Organisation. Open economies bring many advantages. Markets and free trade reward commitment to equalities: there is a price to pay for discrimination, an economic price for the loss of growth when you lock women or minorities out of productive parts of the economy.
Free trade is essential, too. As we are unwilling to live in a world where we only eat, use or wear things we have made ourselves, we are tied to a world of trade….