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The Bizarre, Mad World of Trade Negotiations Among Government Officials

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:


Conspicuously missing from your report on U.S.-China trade negotiations is any mention of, or even allusion to, consumers (“U.S. Pushes China to Follow Through on Trade Promises,” Jan. 7). This omission, however, is not the fault of your reporter. It’s the fault of the topsy-turvy perception that the public and government officials have about trade.

While the ultimate purpose of international trade is to increase, through commerce with peoples of other countries, the consumption possibilities of the people of the home country, both Beijing and Washington reject this truth and replace it with its inverse. As your report reveals, in these trade talks Washington officials behave as if the ultimate purpose of international trade is for Americans to produce as much as possible for the Chinese and to receive in exchange as little as possible. Beijing behaves similarly, bargaining to have the Chinese people produce bountifully for us Americans and to receive in exchange a pittance.

In the bizarre, mad world of trade negotiations among government officials, each government works tirelessly as if its highest goal is to enslave its citizens to foreigners. It is prevented from fully achieving this goal only because foreign governments work just as tirelessly to prevent their citizens from enjoying the fruits of other people’s productive efforts.

Regarding the trade talks now occurring in Beijing, we Americans should wish President Xi’s delegation great success as they bargain to counter Trump officials’ efforts to impoverish us.

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


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