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A Trade Policy for All

Market Liberalization Should Be a Means, Not an End

Workers inspect steel pipes at a steel mill of Hebei Huayang Steel Pipe Co Ltd in Cangzhou, Hebei province, China, March 19, 2018. Muyu Xu / Reuters

Not since the end of World War II has international trade policy been so central to global politics for such a sustained period of time. As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump campaigned against trade agreements, winning the election with the support of midwestern states devastated by the loss of their manufacturing base. The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union was motivated in part by a sense that decisions affecting its domestic economy should be made in Britain, not Brussels. Across Europe, right-wing parties skeptical of the international institutions that have promoted and supported trade liberalization are enjoying electoral success not seen since the 1930s. 

These events have initiated yet another round of clashes in the long-running battle between self-described free traders and so-called protectionists. But their debates have proven tired at best and counterproductive at worst. For one thing, neither side believes in truly free trade or

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