… is from page 119 of my Mercatus Center colleague Dan Griswold’s vital 2009 volume, Mad About Trade:
Tariffs are a tool of centralized government economic planning, whereas trade agreements help protect individual Americans from being manipulated by government planners. Agreements are not a transfer of sovereignty from the U.S. government to authorities outside the United States but from governments around the world to citizens. Political power is not transferred abroad but merely curtailed at home.
DBx: For the record (again): free-trade agreements are not ideal, but most such agreements do make trade freer than trade would otherwise be.
My economic and ethical ideal is complete and unconditional free trade globally; my second-best ‘ideal’ is unilateral free trade adopted by each and every government that has the good sense and decency to reject protectionism. But absent either of these policy outcomes (which are indeed politically impossible, at least in my lifetime), I applaud, with pointed reservations, any and all measures that made trade freer. And trade agreements generally do so (even if the language used to sell such agreements is mercantilist b.s. that insults thoughtful people’s intelligence). What Dan – and what I – applaud in trade agreements is not their continuation of the tariffs and other trade restraints that these agreements do not immediately and completely eliminate. Instead, what Dan – and what I – applaud in trade agreements are the reductions in tariffs and other trade restraints that such agreements do generally achieve and that we believe are unlikely to otherwise be achieved.