Is Free Trade Worth the Cost? (Video discussion)

For FASH455 students: Please share your reflections on the video regarding the free trade debate. You can focus on analyzing 1-2 specific debates raised in the video (e.g., comparing the arguments from both sides) and then share your thoughts. Please do not simply state your “opinion,” but use examples, statistics, or trade theories we learned to support your viewpoint.

Further reading: Is Free Trade Worth the Cost?

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

30 thoughts on “Is Free Trade Worth the Cost? (Video discussion)”

  1. Those who don’t support free trade often remind us of the jobs lost and areas, even entire towns, affected by the closing of companies no longer able to compete with imports or by factories that are moved overseas. This is true and, of course, unfortunate. However, those who support free trade say things would be worse without free trade. They point out that trading has actually created new jobs (20% of jobs are related to international trade), but restricting trade can cause job loss in the long run by increasing prices (1000 jobs gained from steel and aluminum production vs 75,000 industrial jobs lost when steel prices rose). Supporters also point out other benefits of trade: the country’s increased growth and wealth, increased incomes, high quality goods, and lower prices from competition. I think free trade has become a necessity in today’s world. Not all countries have the resources to produce all they need, or to produce it well. Some countries will not have an absolute advantage in producing goods. International trade allows countries to specialize in the products that they have a comparative advantage, or less of a disadvantage, in (comparative advantage trade theory). Countries that are capital-intensive are freed up to invest in machinery and technology to produce certain goods (in T&A industry, textiles) when countries that are labor-intensive produce other non-high technology and machinery goods (in T&A industry, apparel). Then they can trade: capital-intensive goods for labor-intensive goods (factor proportions theory). I think the real question is not ‘is free trade worth the cost?’ I think some questions we need to consider are questions such as ‘who should we trade with?’, ‘to what extent do we trade?’, ‘who/where/what should we invest in?’, ‘are countries we are trading with allowing everyone in their country to benefit?’, and ‘does increased income from trading come at a cost in some countries?’. When we are considering international trade, we should take into consideration political, social, and environmental concerns.

  2. As stated in the video, in the last 70 years the world has seen an explosion in international trade and during that same time the world has become 10x wealthier. International and free trade has definitely helped countries in becoming wealthier during these times. Free trade has increased incomes around the world by nearly 25% since 1990 and by 50% in the poorest parts of the world and in the US about 1 in 5 jobs has some relation to international trade free trade. This alone shows the benefits from trade in this industry. Trade allows companies to benefit from lower costs and better products by allowing countries to do what they do best and trade within all of those. However, there are winners and losers with this. More foreign competition can drive companies out of business. This happened in the beginning with the U.S when we started trade with China and some parts of the nation lost factories and jobs. Moving on and looking at the issue with tariffs and taxes, not everyone benefits and it is more likely to impose a heavy burden on lower income households. However, with the benefits and costs through everything weighed, there are more benefits to free trade than to none. It creates a great number of jobs throughout the world, forms relationships with different countries, and creates better products for a cheaper price compared to if one country were to make it without having the expertise. To answer the video’s question “is free trade worth the cost?”, it is worth the cost because of the outweigh of the benefits. Some of the negative costs can be cut down through rules and etc. to better help people caught dealing with these.

  3. Since 1990, free trade has raised earnings globally whether it be in the poorest regions or wealthiest regions. In the US, 1 in 5 jobs are related to free trade in foreign goods and services. That by itself demonstrates the merits of trading in this sector. In most cases, trade enables nations reduced costs and better products for businesses,  But with this we learn in trade there are both winners and losers as  Increased international competition may force companies to close their doors. Free trade is a huge debate, but I think it can be worth the cost. With every negative there is a positive and I think that free trade has demonstrated success and proven to be beneficial in many scenerios, one being as jobs. Though I think it is worth it, I definitely think there are very possible changes that can be made to enhance it. Hopefully there can be a solution to lower tariffs or work of adjusting a cost to benefit more in the future.

    1. One thing that I found shocking in the video was the article that came out about the steel industry. I was shocked that the steel and aluminum tariff that Trump put in place only created 1,000 new jobs in the US, and yet it showed that it caused 75,000 others in other fields to lose their own jobs. First off, I am astounded that this tariff was created in hopes of making only 1,000 jobs, so I am hoping that there were more projections to the growing field of steel/aluminum production with higher numbers. Secondly, I think that this video did a great job of showing the negative effects of tariffs, since the price of these metals were bound to go up, causing other shocks down the supply chain and eventually causing others to lose their job.

  4. Overall, free trade is worth the cost. Despite globalization having made hundreds of factories close across the United States due to cheaper labor in other countries and advanced transportation, it has helped upgrade the quality of life. Consumers now have access to a larger selection and variety of products for low costs. As stated in the video, the act of trying to prevent global free trade has impacted low-income citizens more than allowing it. The increased steel tariffs created around 1,000 new jobs but caused the loss of 75,000 jobs due to the increased cost of raw materials in other industries. This is just one small example but shows how much tariffs and trade policies can affect the global economy across various industries. Free trade is a complex issue that needs regulation but can be hard to predict its path.

    1. Hi fashunfanatic,
      I agree with you, I think that free trade is a necessity since we have learned about how protectionism and trying to live without free trade has historically hurt the nation/economy. With the data that we heard, am surprised to hear that people are still supporting protectionism. This is making me wonder if the information that constituents are getting is portrayed fairly. I also agree that the steel tariff example is really concerning, since the repercussions were so much larger than the benefit that was initially supposed to come from this tariff. I really enjoy your point of how even though the tariff targeted metal materials, many other sectors and industries felt the effects of this legislation in a negative ammner.

  5. Free trade has definitely seen a rise in the past 30 years and all signs are pointing to a continuation. Jobs in particular benefit from this and enhance product quality and quantity. On a global scale international trade creates competitive advantages and disadvantages amongst internationally expanded companies. While this has its pros cons obviously come along with it but it seems from this video that free trade is beginning to smooth out those kinks and adapt to ever-changing technological and distribution changes in the industry. I hope that in years to come tariffs can be lowered to help out financially lower countries and allow a more fair free trade amongst all international companies to allow goods and services to be shared to create the very best product that can also be priced fairly and sustainably for the consumer.

    1. This is a super interesting point, it makes me wonder how much growth international companies can obtain if there was more fair free trade. I also agree with you, I feel the craftsmanship of products will increase and more healthy competition may emerge.

    2. I love the point you make in your post. I agree that from the video it seems as though the kinks throughout free trade are beginning to smooth out. I also agree with your hopes that maybe one day tariffs can be lowered to allow goods and services to be shared to create great products because we truly need to improve our products and our production of products while also implementing more sustainability tactics.

  6. This video portrayed not only the advantages to free trade but also the downsides. There are winners and losers in all aspects of life, and to not hide this information was refreshing. To answer the question ” Is free trade worth the cost?” I’d say yes, the overwhelming statistic of 1 in 5 US jobs come from free trade is a very large percentage of jobs for the US, and on top of that, trading allows for products to cost less and allow companies to compete for the best product. There are positives and negatives to trade but I feel If we take away free trade, much worse will occur. There is a reason that every time free trade was being counteracted the actions failed and we go back to similar beginnings.

  7. I do agree that free trade is worth the cost. Trade enforces globalization. It allows countries access to a greater variety of goods, promotes importation and exportation, and provides a multitude of job opportunities. Tariffs and taxes on traded goods can be beneficial to some, however, they seem to restrict and limit trade more than they benefit it. Limiting these restrictions and encouraging free trade will give more countries the opportunity trade and the opportunity to benefit from trading. This will allow globalization to further expand and could have both political and social benefits as well as obvious monetary benefits.

  8. While globalization is beneficial in many ways, it can also cause harm. More overseas competition can put American business out of business and cost workers their jobs. This is exactly what happened when the U.S. expanded trade with China. Once vibrant and lively cities, such as Detroit, Baltimore and East St. Louis, turned into ghost towns. Free trade can make American businesses and workers very vulnerable. However, without free trade they may be even worse off. This is because restricting trade drives up prices for Americans. Particularly, prices would increase dramatically for lower income households.

    1. I really like the point you made about America feeling the brunt of free trade in cities that once flourished. Free trade overall seems to have its pros and cons and hopefully in years to come a solution to loss of jobs and competition putting cities out of business a problem of the past.

  9. Overall I believe free trade is worth the cost. In the video they mentioned free trade has increased incomes around the world by nearly 25% since just 1990, and by 50% for the poorest parts of the world. Like mentioned in the video, not all countries have the necessary resources to provide goods and services for their people. After what we had talked about in class and connecting those thoughts to the video, the example of the farmer performing tasks and duties for himself to survive served as a messy way to live while he could live a more lavish carefree life with the help of focusing on a task he is best with, making more money, and receiving better quality goods from services to products. Added value that maximizes our time and abilities to work is something that globalization can take credit for. I think it would be extremely interesting for our class to do a simulation where we try to keep track of how globalization is evident in our daily lives. Everything from the floor to the planes flying above our heads serves as an example of globalization.

  10. As globalization has grown, the talk about the negative effects of globalization has also grown. It is common to here people argue that globalization (especially in the US) has caused many to be laid off due to these other countries taking jobs and opportunities from those in the origin country. Though the argue also arises that trade has also created a great amount of growth. The World Bank reporting that “trade has increased incomes around the world by about 25% since 1990”. Many other jobs have also become trade dependent, without trade these jobs would be in danger. Different countries have different resources as well, some better than others. And in order to develop better products global trade is a must.

    1. Great post! I agree with you about the negatives that come along with free trade but also how it is needed due to the work it creates and jobs it provides for many people. Free trade has been the reason for a lot of growth in areas such as incomes and employment. Yet, there still must be some regulations to make sure the environment in which these people work is safe.

  11. I think free trade is worth it. Free trade is a huge debate because there are both winners and losers. A negative of free trade is that it could strongly affect the lower-income households. Not only that but it can also drive American companies out of business. Though free trade does have some bad effects, I do believe it is worth it because of its many benefits. Some benefits of free trade are that it opens more job opportunities for workers all around the world and it helps to improve relationships between us and other countries. It was interesting to think about how hard it would be to live solely relying on ourselves and what we can do alone but ultimately it would be extremely difficult. I believe that free trade is worth the cost because it is beneficial is many aspects across the board. There can definitely be some changes made to free trade so it doesn’t hurt as many but overall, it is worth it.

  12. The video discusses how international trade has led to our world becoming 10 times wealthier. The two arguments relate to whether or not trade is necessary for economic growth, and if trade is beneficial or not to Americans. According to the video, the World Bank reports that trade has increased incomes for the poorest parts of the world by 50%. This statistic is surprising to me, and shows the benefits of trade it can have on the economy. On the other hand, an individual being self-sufficient may not always lead to better quality goods. Trade is beneficial to Americans because it allows us to make more money, as well as get high-quality goods. I agree with this process of trade in our economy. Not only does trade provide growth, it creates competition which keeps prices low and steady, and free trades allows the world to do what they are best at. On the other hand, the lack of free trade is just as bad as people may perceive free trade is on Americans. According to the video, it is estimated that the poorest Americans lose more than five times as much of their income to tariffs, as the wealthiest ones. I believe that although there are complications, growing trade is beneficial to the textile and apparel industry.

  13. Free trade is a continuous, dependent cycle. The video points out many statistics stating both pros and cons of free trade, but in the end, it is worth the cost. We see both sides highlighted here. We have one in which a nation can be self-dependent, but then the issue of failure arises. There is the other side, globalization and free trade, that helps and hurts different countries as well as the different levels of income throughout the world. The thing is, the “hurt” is just the price to be paid for its higher benefits. Essentially, yes free trade has caused some harm, but the effects of not having it would be even worse. Without it, we wouldn’t have lower, competitive prices, alongside better and well-made products and services that are available to us. Specific countries have specific resources that are beneficial to everyone in the end, and the only way to reap those benefits is through this current system.

    1. I agree it is worth the cost. This nation lacks certain resources that other countries have and vice versa. However, I do feel there needs to be more control on labor at these companies as free trade can make people oversee regulations. In the textile industry I do feel free trade is worth it as it helps consumers get the best product.

  14. Free trade has helped countries all over the world and while it does have its drawback such as low labor regulations, the pros such as economic efficiency and good relationships with countries outweigh these. Trading with countries that really need the business benefits boths the U.S. and that countries economy, job market and relationship. The video highlights both sides very well and there will never be a perfect solution where nobody gets hurt. Free trade helps countries use their resources and become available across the world, along with creating competition and keeping prices low. Growing trade and globalization is essential for the textile and apparel industry to keep growing but there can be changes and possible regulations made to help reduce the negatives. The overall goal is to just make a great product for consumers and countries and brands need to remember that.

    1. I completely agree relationships amongst countries and efficiency amongst international economies outweigh the drawbacks. This video did a great job of explaining both sides of free trade and highlighted how each country has it’s own strength in the manufacturing and distribution process. The textile and apparel industry can only benefit with these policies.

  15. I agree with many of my class mates that free trade is definitely worth the cost. Yes trade can cause people to lose jobs and can cause companies to fail, but ultimately the many benefits of free trade outweigh the cost. As the video mentioned many times tariffs and regulation on trade can cost more jobs than they create. Additionally, I think that creating tariffs can harm international relationships. We rely on many other country’s for their specialty goods and resources, it is important to be mindful of this when weighing the cost of tariffs. One of the most notable things in this video to me was “do what you’re good at= make more money”. Competition across the globe is vast, but every country, every company and every individual has strong suits.

  16. Based on the video it seems as though free trade is mutually beneficial for both the country that is importing as well as the country that is exporting goods/services. Though there are a few stipulations when it comes to free trade that make it hard to really decipher the best possible options for each country. I think this concept is very tricky to approach especially now with many rules and regulations on manufacturing more sustainable goods, which includes treating workers in the factories fairly, this variable creates issues when talking about either paying workers a fair wage and making their work environment adequate while still being able to afford to produce your products within the factory.

  17. I think that free trade is worth the cost in the end, and I like how the video brought up the concept we talked about in class about how there are winners and losers on both sides of the coin. The 1-3 reading had an interesting point: free trade may increase inequality in the U.S., but it decreases the rich/poor gap globally. In the end, it’s all about zooming out our perspective. Sure, it hurts to see once booming factories in the U.S. now shut down and people out of jobs, but there may be tenfold the number of opposite stories worldwide. By supporting free trade, we get better products, get more freedom to produce just the items that we are best suited for, and support countless developing nations worldwide. Granted, we must trade responsibly, without exploitation, but the benefits of free trade are worth the challenge of solving that problem.

  18. I feel like free trade is worth the cost. There seems to be more benefits when it comes to free trade. These benefits include a more thriving economy, a better relationship with other countries, and will decrease the gap between the rich and the poor. Also, as consumers we have more access to a variety of products. If it we not for free trade, we would have limited access to products. There are a few negatives when it comes to free trade, for example job loss, however I feel as if the benefits outweigh the negatives.

  19. posted on behalf of Kara
    The question “Is Free Trade Worth the Cost?” poses many different answers and opinions, but I believe that it is worth it to trade. After viewing the video, it is evident that the concept of free trade is complex and there are many different pieces to understanding the process as well as whom it may affect the most. Overall, free trade appears to be more beneficial than detrimental for a number of reasons. The world has seen a significant increase in wealth over the last 70 years due to an explosion in international trade, and trade has increased global income by 24% since 1990. I think the example of the man living self-sufficiently perfectly illustrates why trade is important, because it demonstrates the efficiency of allowing everyone around the world to do what they are best at. If the United States were to practice insourcing, for instance, the quality of their products would most likely decrease as they would no longer be importing materials from countries with a proven track record for the highest quality. Allowing countries to produce the materials they are best at creates the opportunity for everyone to make more money and obtain higher-quality goods and services. Additionally, it is important to emphasize that restricting trade can increase prices for Americans and place a larger burden on those who are not as economically stable. Free trade can also come at a cost to some people, as it can create competition that results in companies going out of business and workers losing their jobs. However, I think the positives of free trade outweigh the negatives and we can strive to discover solutions that reduce the negative effects of free trade as best as possible.

    1. Great thought! Your comment reminded me of our comparative advantage trade theory discussion today. We need to find a way to encourage least-developed countries like Haiti to participate in trade so that they can benefit from trade-led growth. That being said, different from classic trade theories primarily built on economic thinking, nations increasingly consider non-economic factors in trade today, such as national security. This could lead to different conclusions on whether we should blindly support “free trade.”

  20. While there are both negatives and positives that come with free trade, overall I’d say that it is worth the cost. One specific point that made me come to this conclusion was the jobs that it provides and the increase in incomes. According to the video, incomes have increased about 25% around the world due to trade, as well as in the US 1 in every 5 jobs is related to international trade. Another benefit that caught my attention was that free trade allows for more competition which in return will keep prices lower, as well as produce better products. Free trade provides many opportunities for the country as a whole. Even though the advantages exceed the downsides, it is at the expense of some of the people, meaning caution still needs to be taken in making decisions that will protect the people involved and will cause the least amount of harm.

  21. I thought this video was really interesting and I am glad I learned the information because it is important to know. I do agree that free trade is worth the cost for many reasons. We know it creates and keeps lots of jobs for many. This is great because people get paid and that money can be spent and put into the economy. I think it helps countries that don’t have a lot of money, to save, and become a wealthier country. It should be looked at that countries are our allies and that’s more important than having everything be about money. Also, if we don’t have free trade, it is limiting to have certain materials we can’t get here in the US. I do hope that our opinions matter for our future in the industry.

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