Free trade is good for the world

There is a long standing argument for and against free trade among nations. It is a subject that conjures up a lot of anger and emotion because it gets to the heart of being an independent and sovereign country, at least it is perceived as that. It also touches on unfair practices used by powerful nations to take advantage of less fortunate nations when they negotiate for free trade deals.

A distinction needs to be made between bi/trilateral free trade agreements and regional free trade agreements. Above those there are global agreements. Bilateral free trade agreements involve two nations (and obviously trilateral involves three).  Perhaps the most successful free trade agreement in the world is a trilateral agreement called NAFTA between the US, Canada and Mexico. It is considered by a majority of experts to be an enormously positive deal, especially to Canada and the United States. However, even in this agreement there are those who do not support it. The primary concerns revolve around two main themes. The first is that Mexico has not seen the same positive results as the other two countries involved and for them it seems like this deal has done some good and some bad (rural Mexicans have fared worse in some cases than before the agreement). The second argument opponents of NAFTA make is that this deal blurs the lines of what it means to be Canadian, American or Mexican.

On the first point, about Mexico, it is true that Mexico has not experienced the same levels of success as other NAFTA members, but no rational thinking person should have thought for a second that just because of a free trade agreement, Mexico’s economy will become as advanced and efficient as the US or Canada’s. The goal for Mexico was to increase the productivity of the Mexican economy and allow opportunities for Mexican citizens with access to the US and Canadian markets. This has occurred without a doubt. Also, it is not fair to lay all the blame on NAFTA for every bad outcome. Much of the negative results have more to do with other economic factors in Mexico totally unrelated to NAFTA. Moreover, supporting and providing education and training to rural Mexicans is not the job of NAFTA but rather the Mexican government. If the government would have done a better job of this than those Mexicans would be better served with NAFTA than without it.

The second argument opponents of NAFTA make is actually one that is a staple to opponents of any free trade agreement and globalisation and that is that these agreements take away sovereignty from nations and destroy local cultures. A common tool they use to illustrate their argument is by pointing to the McDonald’s restaurants located anywhere and everywhere around the world. This is the most ridiculous argument someone can make. In fact, all it does is it shows who actually knows anything about the world we live in and who has had their head in the clouds since birth.

The simple fact is that American culture is not forced on anyone. Never in the history of the company has McDonald’s opened a restaurant, placed cashiers holding a machine gun and forced the local citizens to buy and eat their food. People all over the world CHOOSE McDonald’s over their own local foods because they enjoy it more. The same goes for American sports, movies and music. If a part of a local culture dies out and is no longer eaten, listened to or watched then we shouldn’t cry and complain about it. Instead we should be happy that those people we given a choice and we can take away the fact that we are all similar in more ways than we thought. When foreign cultures such as food are introduced and end up becoming more popular than that local culture than that tells us that the local culture was not very good or strong in this aspect. There is no need to sugar coat it, the proof is right there.

The best case one can make for globalisation and free trade is that it removes much of the threat of war. It does by linking countries’ success and failures to one another. It also allows the people to get to know each other and understand each other better. This has been true all over the world. It doesn’t mean that two countries in a trade agreement will not wage war anymore or each other, but over the long term it definitely reduces that risk.

Also, if you look at the concept of a sovereign nation with its own culture and laws, etc… That whole notion is one that is important and necessary now, but if you think forward in to the future, the world is becoming closer, more similar and more together and at some point in the future (likely past our lifetimes) the need to separate each other by flags, borders and laws will become less important. Look at how North America was 400 years ago compared to Europe at that same time period. It was dissimilar in every possible way. However, if you look at the two continents now both look very similar and share many aspects of life together. In 100 years or so, the entire world will undoubtedly look more similar throughout than it does today and this is a positive step in human evolution, thanks in large part to globalisation and free trade.