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A Trade War On the World’s Poorest

New obstacles to free trade not only make the world less secure. Protectionism also undermines the best opportunity to transform the lives of billions of the world’s poorest people and realize benefits worth trillions of dollars every year.

PRAGUE – US President Donald Trump’s steel tariffs have brought the prospect of a trade war closer to reality. The European Union warns that it has “a whole arsenal at our disposal with which to respond,” while China threatens “a justified and necessary response.”

Economists, politicians, and public figures have all raised concerns about the threat of tit-for-tat trade barriers. But it is difficult to overstate the potential damage. New obstacles to free trade not only take us in the wrong direction; they also undermine the best opportunity to transform the lives of billions of the world’s poorest people and realize benefits worth trillions of dollars every year.

It is reasonable to point out that freer trade does have costs. Much of the sentiment expressed by political leaders today – which has much in common with that underlying the intense anti-trade protests of the 1990s – reflects the reality that every trade deal costs some people their jobs, and that some of the displaced will not find other work.

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