26 January 2018
Mr. Donald Trump
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500
In your Davos speech today, you said about trade that “it needs to be fair and it needs to be reciprocal.”
About the “fair” part: me being an unconditional free trader, I’m delighted to hear it! Trade that is fair is trade that each party voluntarily agrees to in the absence of artificially imposed barriers, penalties, or requirements. In short, when trade is free, trade is fair. The only trade that is unfair is trade that is artificially obstructed.
About the “reciprocal” part: I’m confused. Have you ever encountered trade that is not reciprocal? Each and every trade, by its nature, is an exchange – that is, each and every trade involves reciprocity. (To obtain property by some method that doesn’t involve reciprocity is to receive a gift, to get a bequest, or to steal through either force or fraud.) Because trade necessarily is reciprocal, to worry that our trading partners might engage with us in trade that is non-reciprocal is akin to worrying that you might be served a glass of water that is non-wet filled with ice that is non-frozen.
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