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Trade Cannot Be Fair Unless it is Free

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The Competitive Enterprise Institute today released a report on the urgent need to return to free trade policies at a time when tariffs and tensions dominate U.S. trade policy and presidential rhetoric.

“Government-imposed trade restrictions will inflict harm on everyday people, depriving them of important freedoms and causing them long-run economic harm,” warned Iain Murray, CEI senior fellow and report co-author. “Trade and innovation have lifted huge numbers out of poverty here and abroad in the last few decades, but those gains are now threatened by the Trump administration and its escalating, retaliatory trade conflicts.”

“Tariffs and other trade barriers throw people out of work, raise consumer prices, open new opportunities for corruption, and reduce competition,” said Ryan Young, CEI fellow and report co-author. “Trade cannot be fair unless it is free.”

The report makes several key recommendations:

  • Congress should curb runaway executive branch power over trade, specifically ending presidential power to raise tariffs unilaterally by merely citing national security concerns or unfair trade practices.
  • The administration should eliminate/reduce anti-dumping duties, the most costly non-tariff trade barrier.
  • The administration and Congress should work together to end subsidies and favorable financing deals for exporters, all of which invite foreign retaliation, make American companies less competitive, and empower favor-seeking lobbyists.
  • The U.S. should make better use of existing trade frameworks and agreements, like the WTO and NAFTA, and seek out new free trade agreements, such as with the UK.
  • The U.S. should encourage competition in regulation through greater use of mutual recognition agreements in trade deals. Mutual recognition will reveal what regulations are more effective and provide an incentive for change.
  • The administration should work to remove non-trade provisions from existing trade agreements, like intellectual property and labor, environmental, and regulatory policy.

View the report, Traders of the Lost Ark: Rediscovering a Moral and Economic Case for Free Trade by Iain Murray and Ryan Young