Today, millions of people around the world will put on some green, watch a hurling or rugby match, enjoy a Guinness stout, and praise St. Patrick, the patron saint of the Emerald Isle. A beam in Guinness’s Dublin brewery reads “Everyone’s Irish on March 17th.” And, thanks to free trade, all Americans can feel Irish today, too.
Tariff rates on the products necessary for a true Irish celebration are free or nearly free. As you prepare an Irish feast of potatoes and bacon and cabbage, remember that trade is not only helping to deliver those items to your table but also bringing them there at a low cost.
U.S. tariff rates on pork and corned beef are free, and if you want to import canned pork from Ireland, it’s a low 8 cents per kilogram. For all you kids out there, the tariff on cabbage is 10 percent, making it just that much more expensive for your parents to purchase.
Even those headed to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City for Mass today should rejoice. Thanks to free trade, there is no tariff on the import of religious goods. This means that the church can spend less on the St. Patrick’s Day Mass and more on helping the community.
St. Patrick’s Day revelers haven’t always been this “lucky.” In 1994, before tariff rates were lowered under the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations, imports from Ireland were more expensive. That year the U.S.government collected more than $78 million in tariffs on goods from Ireland, adding on average 2.7 percent to the cost of your 1994 St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Today that rate is 0.0007 percent.
As the U.S. attempts to negotiate two major free trade agreements—one with the European Union and one with Asian allies—it is important to keep in mind that free trade, both exports and imports, is good for everyone. After all, who wants to pay more for St. Patrick’s Day?