Free Trade Breakdown

Global fear about free trade, reflected in the breakdown of the Doha Round, leaves the planet at risk of missing out on the extraordinary benefits that it offers. Free trade is good not only for big corporations, or for job growth. It is simply good.

COPENHAGEN – Last month, the Doha negotiations, promising freer trade, broke down, ostensibly over a small technicality in safeguard rules. In reality, the talks collapsed because nobody – not Europe, not the United States, China, India, or the other main developing countries – was willing to take the political short-term hit by offending inefficient farmers and coddled domestic industries in order to create greater long-term benefits for virtually everyone.

And they broke down because we really don’t care. After a few exasperated editorials, the world has pretty much dropped the subject and gone back to its usual concerns.

This is foolish. Establishing significantly freer trade would help the world combat almost all of its biggest problems. For an astonishingly low cost, we could improve education and health conditions, make the poorest people richer, and help everybody become better able to tackle the future.

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