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Who’d a-thunk It?

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Every day the media produce hundreds upon hundreds of howlers. Why this one (quoted below) from last Friday’s Washington Post strikes me as especially amusing I can’t quite say, but it does. The howler in question appears in a report by Erica Werner and David J. Lynch on the on-going negotiations to replace NAFTA with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) [2]:

NAFTA was meant to expand trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico by removing tariffs and other barriers on products as they were shipped between countries. The pact did open up trade, but it also proved disruptive in terms of creating new manufacturing supply chains and relocating businesses and jobs.

So… when people become more free to trade with each other new trading relations arise. Some domestic firms export more, as well as import more inputs, while other domestic firms confront more competition from foreign rivals – all encouraging resources in the more-freely-trading nations to move from inefficient uses to efficient uses.

Wow! Freer trade results in changes in the pattern of trade! Freer trade, by uncorking more competition, causes some producers to change the manner of their operations and gives buyers new options that many buyers actually take! Just wow! Who’s a-thunk it?!

….

Seriously, what misconception would lead journalists to write such a passage as the one quoted above? Apparently, some journalists hold the view that reality harbors the possibility that patterns of trade can change without causing any actual change – without causing some producers to lose market share, without cause some workers to lose jobs, without causing some sellers to have to cut prices. In brief, some journalists believe that it is possible for trade patterns to change and at the same time not change.

In what universe to such people reside?

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