When goods don’t cross borders, armies will, warned 18th Century French statesman Frederic Bastiat. In light of September 11, Bastiat’s warning should be updated to include terrorists. The freedom to trade and peace are interconnected. This link is important to remember, especially as you read about the WTO’s Fifth Ministerial Conference in Cancun (Sept. 10-14).
Throngs of protestors in Cancun will attack globalization, which, in this case, is defined as the reduction or elimination of trade barriers. However, by attacking the freedom to trade, the protestors are indirectly helping to sow the seeds of human suffering.
Likewise, many protestors will shout down U.S. military actions in the Middle East and push for government trade barriers. These protestors’ efforts are also counterproductive to peace.
In May 2003, President Bush announced plans for a free trade area between the US and Middle East within a decade. The Cato Institute’s Daniel T. Griswold notes, the faster the barriers fall, the better for the US and citizens of “the stagnant and increasingly isolated countries of the Arab Middle East.” In his article, “Win the Peace in Iraq through Free Trade,” Griswold wrote, “Study after study has confirmed that nations relatively open to trade grow faster and achieve higher incomes than those that are relatively closed.” Freedom to trade leads to wealth, political stability and forges ties between citizens of all countries.
As Cato’s Tom G. Palmer puts it, “Protectionism is based on a mentality and a corresponding set of policies that emphasize the opposing interests of nations. Free trade, in contrast, links nations together in peace.”
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