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The Only Sovereignty that Truly Matters in Matters of Trade

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

John Bolton worries that American participation in the WTO diminishes U.S. sovereignty (“Trump, Trade, and American Sovereignty,” March 8).

For argument’s sake, let’s stipulate that Mr. Bolton is correct that WTO dispute-resolution procedures wrongly and dangerously diminish Uncle Sam’s sovereignty.  What to do?

By far the best and surest solution to this problem is for the U.S. to adopt, unconditionally, a policy of unilateral free trade.  Because such a policy would render U.S. membership in the WTO (and, indeed, in all trade agreements) pointless, our government could withdraw from that organization.  American consumers would be free to buy from whichever suppliers offer them the best deals, while American producers would be free to sell to whichever buyers make them the best offers.  With our market open on equal terms to any and all merchants, foreign and domestic, other governments would have no cause to complain that their producers are “unfairly” excluded from the American market.  And our policy – being unconditional and unilateral – would leave foreign merchants completely free to compete for the business of our consumers regardless of the number or types of restraints that those merchants’ governments inflict on their citizens.

In short, an unconditional policy of unilateral free trade would ensure that the U.S. government would never again be party to any trade dispute needing resolution by the WTO or any other international tribunal.

Best of all, the only sovereignty that really matters for trade – the sovereignty of the consumer – would in America be maximized.  No longer would anyone in places such as Bakersfield and Boston and Seattle and Slidell suffer the indignity of having his or her consumption choices superintended, countermanded, or punitively taxed by Washington’s overbearing politicians and mandarins.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030