Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Moral Case for Free Trade

From the WSJ last week, an article about Haiti's (the poorest country in the Western hemisphere) textile exports to the U.S. and the growing anti-free-trade climate in Washington ("Haiti's Trade Push Hits New Political Head Wind: Lawmakers Look Askance At Effort to Ease Tariff Rule Amid Globalization Concern"):

"Haiti's struggle to persuade Congress to help its apparel makers underscores a new reality: In the political climate on Capitol Hill, even small trade gestures face big hurdles. Haiti is trying to secure passage of an initiative that would allow the Caribbean country to use non-American-made material in garments destined for the U.S., while still qualifying for duty-free access. Currently, Haitian garments must be made from material produced in the U.S. to get duty-free treatment. Using foreign-made fabric, such as from China, could significantly lower production costs for Haitian garments makers and make their goods more competitive in global markets." (MP: Translation - less expensive for American consumers.)

Now who could possibly be opposed to: a) helping the poorest country in the Western hemisphere's textile industry, and b) lower prices at the same time for US consumers? Well, the US textile industry of course, and enabling politicians from textile-producing states.

"We can stop it," pledged Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations, the largest U.S. textile-industry group. "If Vietnam shows anything, it will fail."

University of Illinois law professor Andrew Morris responds in
today's WSJ:

"What right does Cass Johnson have to interfere with voluntary trade between consenting adults? The question that needs to be asked in Washington is: Why are Mr. Johnson and other representatives of special interests even consulted about the trading practices of others?"

"Free trade between Americans and Haitians (or Americans and Mexicans, Chinese, Laotians, Guatemalans, Poles, Ugandans or anyone else you care to name) is not only none of Mr. Johnson's business, it is none of anyone's business except those doing the trading. And, as the case of trade with Haiti makes abundantly clear, free trade isn't simply an economically sensible policy, it is a moral policy. How dare these people attempt to stop Haitians from bettering themselves through offering to trade with others."

If the Haiti trade bill fails, both Haiti and the US will be worse off.


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