Free trade has plenty of opponents on both the left and the right. The standard complaint is that opening up U.S. markets to foreign goods will destroy American jobs and reduce American wages.
What the opponents don't acknowledge (or in some cases even realize) about free trade agreements of the sort approved yesterday by Congress is that their main effect is just the opposite -- opening up foreign markets to U.S. goods.
As the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative notes, South Korean tariffs on our farm products have averaged 54 percent, while our tariffs on South Korean farm goods generally run about 9. Their levies on non-agricultural products are double what ours are. When we ship to Colombia, we typically pay duties of 12.5 percent, while Colombian companies selling here pay 3 percent.
In reality, the United States already offers relatively free trade. These deals are about getting other countries to do the same.
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