Now that Congress has passed free trade agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea, it’s a good time to ask why the United States should support and expand free trade. The chart below shows that the benefits of free trade are hard to deny. Countries that have more trade freedom also enjoy stronger economies, less hunger, and better care of the environment.
Opponents of free trade complain that it leads to “unfair” foreign competition and that it destroys jobs, but the truth is a much different story. “Countries with the highest trade barriers have nearly twice the unemployment rate of countries with the most trade freedom,” Bryan Riley and Ambassador Terry Miller explain in their new paper “Global Trade Freedom Needs A Boost.”
Unfortunately, though, trade freedom has not expanded since 2011–and that’s all the more reason that the pending U.S. trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea should be enacted. Miller and Riley explain how the United States can get off the sidelines and move the ball forward on free trade:
In recent years, the United States has remained on the sidelines while other countries have aggressively moved forward with trade deals modeled on U.S. agreements, such as NAFTA. The Administration should follow up by exploring multilateral opportunities to reduce trade barriers in the Pacific, in the Western Hemisphere, across the Atlantic, and anywhere else it can find willing partners.
Other steps the United States can take to bring about more free trade? Congress can eliminate tariffs on imported shoes and clothing, restrictions on sugar imports, job-killing anti-dumping laws, “Buy American” laws, and The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (Jones Act) and the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886.