In the wake of the end of the Cold War, capitalism marched triumphant over the face of the globe. As the economies of the former Soviet bloc converted to capitalism (or at least a version of it) and China continued its economic reforms and India began theirs, the US, Mexico and Canada joined in what was the largest free trade area in the world. The US has since approved 12 free trade agreements that impact our foreign trade with 17 other countries (Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Israel, Honduras, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Peru and Singapore). You’ll notice that most of the countries are either some of our western neighbors, or strategic partners in the Pacific and Middle East.
That roster will now grow to include South Korea, Colombia and Panama now that Congress has ratified free trade agreements with those countries, a process that’s taken years. The free trade agreement with South Korea, in my mind, is the most significant, as that country will represent a potential gateway to northern Asian markets (read: China and Japan) and will serve as a potential predictor country of what a broader free trade area in the Pacific will look like. That’s currently under negotiation, and will include many of the countries of the Pacific rim.
I’m not going to lie. Even though free trade has eviscerated my home state of Michigan, it is, overall, a good thing. The future lies not in trying to conserve the economic past, but in looking to what the future holds while retaining that wisdom the past has given us. Viva free trade.
* The title was taken from a paper that a dear friend of mine (GRF) from college wrote.