Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Monday, March 22, 2004

Re: Free Trade
Written by: Beck

You took my first argument out of my mouth--that labor and regulatory costs are artificially high in the US. And you are correct also in observing that my arguments (I should say free-trade arguments in general) are predicated on peace, cooperation, and the like. When the chips are on the table, then, it comes down to an argument over to what extent peace and stability can be assumed to exist going forward.

It would be foolish to think that China can be counted on as a long-term source of beneficial exchange (though I think there's a chance that China does not turn out to be the huge negative it has the potential to be. Their government's incremental progress towards pro-business and pro-growth policies can likewise develop into a more open, stable, friendly nation. After all, the more they successfully develop into an industrialized nation, the more they, like Japan, will need to depend on foreign markets for their products; however, while one can reasonably hope for such an outcome, I will concede that it would be naive to base planning for the future on such assumptions. This detail actually brings up an argument made much earlier by Answerman about how congress was foolish to vote to normalize most favored nation trade status with China. Passing the MFN decision was a huge pet project of the Clinton administration, and I think we all know the roots of the motivation for that bit of legislation. In case any doubt remains, I agree 100% with Answerman that MFN trade status with China should NOT have been made permanent). Still, China is far from the only trading partner of the United States.

India has very near the same sized population as China, and it is India, after all to which so many of our white collar jobs are flying. Furthermore, many jobs in high-tech are flying to Japan and the Asian tigers (and have for decades now), and to South and Central America. Herein lies my confidence for the future of American economic health and for the future success of free trade policies. Even if the United States were to lose 100% of Chinese industrial production at some hypothetical point twenty years down the road, and even if that production were assumed to be a substantial source of American imports, I nonetheless feel confident in saying that there will be a surplus of alternate, friendly markets for the US to originate alternate supply routes.

Finally, if China does get to such a prosperous position in the world and they suddenly cut off exports to America--the world's largest market for manufactured goods--the impact would be crushing to the Chinese economy while causing only minor inconvenience to ours.

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John Beck

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