Support for free trade, especially from politicians, often rests on tired mercantalist arguments about the benefits of exports and jobs. That can backfire, as we've seen recently with trade figures showing that the U.S. trade deficit with Korea has widened since the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement came into force. That's why I've argued that relying on rhetoric about all the exports and jobs that free(r) trade will create is a dangerous game: where, might trade skeptics ask, are all those exports you promised us, and why should we support trade liberalization if the results we were promised don't materialize? So I was thrilled today to see a small post on Bloomberg.com from Harvard economics professor Ed Glaeser calling for the president to make a strong push for a U.S.-EU trade agreement, because of the benefits it would bring U.S. companies and consumers:
He should use his address to make the U.S. a leading voice once again for economic freedom: the freedom of consumers to buy European goods and the freedom of producers to sell their goods on the other side of the Atlantic.
It is gratifying to see a principled case for free trade, resting on a foundation of freedom, in the media. Here's hoping President Obama read Professor Glaeser's article, and heeds his advice.