TCS Daily

Human Rights and Trade

By James K. Glassman - August 15, 2002 12:00 AM

Editor's note: The following are James K. Glassman's remarks at the President's Economic Summit, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, Aug. 13, 2002

Thank you Ambassador Zoellick and Secretary Veneman. It is an honor to have been invited to this important conference.

I want to make two points on subjects related to trade that don't get enough attention: first, the benefits of imports and, second, the moral dimension.

First, imports.

Exports are important, no doubt. But let's remember that we trade for the same reason that we engage in ANY economic activity. We trade to live better - to get things that will clothe, feed and otherwise satisfy us. When trade occurs not just down the street but across borders, those things are called imports.

The Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman wrote years ago: "A fallacy seldom contradicted is that exports are good and imports are bad. The truth is very different. We cannot eat, wear or enjoy the goods that we send abroad. We eat bananas from Central America, wear Italian shoes, drive German automobiles, and enjoy programs we see on our Japanese TV set. Our gain from foreign trade is what we import. Exports are the price we pay for imports.

Second, the moral dimension.

Free trade is not merely an economic concept; it is a human right, a natural right. People should have the right to exchange the sweat of their brows, the products of their hands and their minds, with whomever they wish. Government should not get between me and the person with whom I want to trade.

Finally, on this moral issue, I want to congratulate the Bush administration for using its newly won Trade Promotion Authority to tackle the problem of farm subsidies in Europe and Japan. This is unfair competition, and it needs to end. One big reason is that such trade policies effectively keep the agricultural goods of poor countries off the shelves of grocery stores in richer countries.

This harms the economies of these African, Asian and Latin American nations and helps keep them in poverty. One of the effects of that poverty is a polluted environment - since studies have shown many times that wealth makes environmental (as well as personal) health.

We see the same kind of hypocrisy, especially from Europeans, over and over. In two weeks, I will be going to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. There again, Europeans will be promoting anti-growth trade, environmental and energy policies - to the detriment, not just to Americans, but to the citizens of poorer nations.

Here is the point: Trade makes economic growth, and economic growth makes better living conditions throughout the world.

Thank you.



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