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Free trade and politics as drawn by our cartoonist KAL | The Economist

Free trade—a principle upon which The Economist was founded 173 years ago—is severely under threat. Our KAL cartoonist illustrates the state of trade in our latest offering, “Daily Watch”

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From the time we are children, we swap things with others. We give and take for mutual benefit. This same principle of exchange and enrichment is what motivates trade between countries.

Trade is widely regarded as a spur for economic growth. It encourages countries to specialise in certain areas of strength. This enables the world to produce more goods and more kinds of goods than it otherwise could.

Since World War II, international trade has increased seventeen-fold, helping to ignite economic growth around the globe. Despite the obvious benefits of free trade, there are many who are motivated to limit it.

Tariffs, trade bans and quota restrictions can be used as weapons to punish competing and opposing nations. This could lead to retaliation and a devastating trade war.

Some critics argue that not all trade is good trade. Trading with poor developing countries where wages are usually lower and working hours longer than in developed countries can create an imbalance. The result can be the loss of jobs in high wage economies.

Despite these concerns, free and open trade should be embraced. Embracing the alternative is child’s play.

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The Economist offers authoritative insight and opinion on international news, politics, business, finance, science, technology and the connections between them.
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