Thursday, December 3, 2009

Free trade's a tough sell even to the WTO

An article in the WSJ, "Blame Goes Global at WTO
Officials at Trade Talks Say Fears of Lost Jobs and Political Fallout Block Progress
," by JOHN W. MILLER, describes foot dragging on free trade at the current WTO meeting in Geneva.
In all countries, "people are afraid" of another trade deal, says U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. "Trade has provided a way for people to have fresh produce, cheap T-shirts, available electronics, but the pain of trade is very real."

Yeah, I don't see much evidence of the benefits of free trade in the U.S.

Low inflation? (Inflation can be controlled without running a huge trade deficit.) Cheap consumer goods? (And dubious quality; and diminished consumer income and job security) Fewer wars? (Not much evidence of that.)

I'd really like to see a convincing defense of free trade as it relates to the U.S. economy. Not just the same old hollow tropes that get trotted out about an evolving, white-collar trending economy, but a real defense.

I doubt it exists. But so many economists seem to have a desperate stake in the empty notion of free trade. I say, until someone comes up with convincing argument for selling out our industrial base (and engineering know how, and labor rights), let's go back to mercantilism. At least the benefits, along with the faults, are clear.

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