Ignore Those Who Complain of Trade Imbalances
As a general rule of thumb, experience has taught me that anytime somebody talks about an "imbalance in trade," or says they support "fair trade" instead of "free trade," it's pretty much guaranteed that either: a) they really don't know what they're talking about and don't really understand international trade, and/or b) they have told only a partial, incomplete story about trade. In either case, it would be a pretty good assumption that you can safely dismiss and ignore their comments.
Or as George Mason economist Don Boudreaux advises today in Cafe Hayek, "ignore anyone who complains that trade is "imbalanced." I have never encountered any such complaint that makes even a whiff of economic sense."
Professor Boudreaux is responding to complaints by UAW President Ron Gettelfinger's in yesterday's WSJ that "the U.S. and South Korea have a huge imbalance in auto trade."
As Don points out, GM and Ford have HUGE "trade imbalances" with their workers, just like most of us have with all of our employers (they buy more of our labor services than we buy of their products or services), and just like the "trade imbalances" most of us have with our dry cleaners, grocery stores, restaurants, cell phone companies, gas stations, banks, Amazon.com, Starbucks, etc. (we buy more from them than they buy from us).
Bottom Line: Any time somebody uses terms like "fair trade," or "trade imbalances," be extremely skeptical of what follows, because it will almost always be some kind of protectionist trade policy (e.g. tariffs on imports) to "balance trade" and make it more "fair."