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The US has negotiated a so-called free trade agreement called DR-CAFTA with six nations, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua.  It’s a pretty good agreement in that it moves these nations toward more open trade.  Unfortunately, it’s not really a free trade agreement because it maintains restrictions on US imports of sugar, making trivial changes in the amount these nations can export to the US.  But overall, it’s a step in the right direction.  Ratification of the agreement is up in the air both here and abroad as fears of the impact of trade are fanned by those with a financial stake in the matter.

I was recently in Costa Rica to talk to people about trade issues and encountered the exact same fears that Americans have about trade.  It’s a little embarassing to be in a country that is dramatically poorer than the US and have to admit that some people in the US are afraid of CAFTA, too.  It’s also just a little weird to have two partners in a trade agreement both worried that they are going to have jobs stolen from the other side.  They both can’t be right.

I was telling my kids about this and they wanted to know why Americans are afraid of trading with poor countries.  I explained that while trade would be good for America and good for those countries we trade with, not every American would benefit.  If we had real free trade, sugar workers here in the US would probably lose their jobs.  They’d have to find something else to do.  And that scares them.  So they fight free trade.

I said it’s like when African-Americans weren’t allowed to play major league baseball.  A lot of white players liked that because otherwise they wouldn’t have had jobs.

This explanation produced a reaction of shock and dismay from my seven year old son.  "But it would be good for the team to have better player.  Like Willie Mays!"  That’s right, I agreed.  And then he looked me in the eye and said, "And it’s not nice."

That a pretty good way to sum it up.  It’s not nice to keep out Costa Rican sugar.

BTW, coming into this season, there were 385 baseball players from the Dominican Republic who have played in major league baseball, including Pedro Martinez, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero, Albert Pujols and Miguel Tejada.  Those imports have certainly displaced some native players, players who have turned to other careers.  But trade in baseball, as in everything else, surely enriches our lives in ways beyond the monetary.


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