Las virtudes olvidadas del libre comercio

LONDRES – “El laissez-faire”, declaró recientemente el presidente francés, Nicolas Sarkozy, “se terminó”. Tal vez, ¿pero deberíamos estar realmente satisfechos si tuviera razón? Si el laissez-faire desaparece, ¿qué es lo que podrá reemplazarlo como el cimiento de una sociedad abierta y global?

Ahora más que nunca, vale la pena recordar que la última gran crisis financiera no sólo inspiró el Nuevo Trato (New Deal) en Estados Unidos, sino que también hundió al mundo en una nueva era oscura de nacionalismo e imperialismo económico. El libre comercio dista de ser perfecto, pero las alternativas son peores. El proteccionismo es malo para la riqueza, malo para la democracia y malo para la paz.

Aún así, existe el peligro genuino de una nueva ola de proteccionismo. Barack Obama, apelando al henchido sentimiento proteccionista entre los norteamericanos, amenazó durante su campaña presidencial con reescribir unilateralmente el Acuerdo de Libre Comercio de Norteamérica. En julio, la ronda de negociaciones de Doha de la Organización Mundial de Comercio se hizo trizas, en parte porque Estados Unidos se negó a reducir sus subsidios agrícolas.

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