Using trade as a weapon of foreign policy has harmed America’s economic interests in the world without advancing national security. The proliferation of trade sanctions in the 1990s has been accompanied by their declining effectiveness. From Cuba to Iran to Burma, sanctions have failed to achieve the goal of changing the behavior or the nature of target regimes. Sanctions have managed only to deprive American companies of investment opportunities and market share and to punish domestic consumers, while hurting the poor and most vulnerable in the target countries.
The powerful connection between economic openness and political and civil freedom provides yet another argument for pursuing an expansion of global trade. In the Middle East, China, Cuba, Central America, and other regions, free trade can buttress U.S. foreign policy by tilling foreign soil for the spread of democracy and human rights.