We are for unilateral free trade. We favor eliminating all US tariffs. We are OK with helping other countries by reducing their taxes including tariffs but it isn’t really important to us. Thus any free trade deal is a second best solution for us.
Iain Murray at NRO brings us an interesting issue of all the additional agreements that have cluttered up trade agreements. Do read the whole thing for a good discussion of the trade-offs. He says:
Trade deals are better than no trade deals, generally speaking. But bad trade deals can set dangerous precedents. That was why in the 1990s, the staunch free trader Fred Smith, founder of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (where this author works), opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) inclusion of side agreements that had nothing to do with trade. He worried that those provisions, mainly concerning labor and environmental standards, would set a precedent to elevate those goals above tariff reduction—the supposed point of trade deals.
Was he right? The conclusion of NAFTA’s renegotiation, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), suggests he was.
USMCA has 34 provisions, 13 annexes, and 13 side letters. Iain is right that the expansion of such agreements is a problem. Some times the problem is a bit of neocolonialism and other times it is the reverse. We are against both but especially the latter because we live here. It could be solved most easily with our suggestion of eliminating all US tariffs because. The problem is that free trade is only high political priority for a few of us. Many people oppose free trade. Some folks support neocolonialism and others the reverse.
Free trade is a high priority for us just like Fred but we tend to support such agreements. It is clear to us that we are not going to take our preferred step of eliminating all tariffs. It is equally clear that agreements will need to be complex to garner sufficient support to be agreed to by the administration and supported by the Senate. Rejecting such agreements because they are not ideal is eliminating the possibility of any agreement. It is a binary choice to approve or reject USMCA. We vote to support approval of USMCA despite its flaws.