What is Free Trade?

    Free trade is the economic doctrine that would allow goods to flow freely on the world market without the impediment of tariffs. On a regional basis free trade has sometimes been achieved. Trade within the United States, for example, is unhampered by tariff barriers between the states. Internationally, however, free trade is an ideal that has never been fully realized.
    The economic argument for free trade is a compelling one. Free trade is the application of the economic doctrine of comparative costs. This means that each nation will produce those goods that it can produce most easily. Suppose the United States enjoys its greatest advantage over nation X in the production of automobiles. Comparative costs will show that both nations will benefit if the United States produces autos for export and imports from nation X a product, say, shoes, that that nation produces more easily than the United States. This is what free trade allows. Free trade will result in each nation's producing that which it can produce most abundantly, in each nation's obtaining its greatest possible surplus of buying power, and in consumers throughout the world being allowed to purchase goods at the lowest possible prices.
    Free trade has few economic flaws. The reasons why free trade has never been fully put into practice internationally are political and military. Nations do not want to spe¬cialize in goods that do not add to their industrial and military strength. The result is that con¬sumers must pay more for goods.