What do you think the government's role in international trade should be?  Are you for high protectionism or free trade?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I definitely support free trade.  I do not believe that the government should block trade.  I believe the government should place reasonable restrictions for health and safety concerns and help people who lose their jobs due to competition from trade.  Outside of that, however, I do not believe that the government should involve itself in international trade.

It seems to be true beyond a doubt that free trade is, overall, a good thing for a country’s economy.  Economic theory is clear on this point.  When countries make things for which they have comparative advantages, the total amount of production in the world as a whole goes up.  This does not appear to be just a theoretical argument either.  Look at the article in the link below and you will see many statistics that show that the US economy is stronger because of free trade.  For example, the author shows that the US has added over 30 million jobs to its economy since free trade started to boom after NAFTA was passed and the World Trade Organization created in the mid-1990s.  The author also points out that, even with all the worries about free trade, the US places second in world manufacturing and third in world exports.  Facts like these make it clear that free trade does not kill national economies.

However, free trade certainly does kill local economies when those economies depend heavily on some industry that dies off due to foreign competition.  This is the really bad thing about trade.  If people in a town have, for example, always worked in textile mills and do not really have any other skills, they will be in bad shape if their mills close due to foreign competition.  I would argue that government needs to step in in such cases.  The government's solution when stepping in should not, however, be to close off trade.  Instead, it should create policies that would help those mill workers train so they can be qualified for new jobs and policies that would make it easier for those workers to move to places where new jobs exist.

Overall, trade is clearly a good thing for economies as a whole.  Therefore, governments should not restrict trade.  However, governments should be aware that trade will hurt some people.  Governments should be sure to enact policies that help these people whose jobs are, in essence, being sacrificed for the common good.