Should the U.S. pursue free-trade policies?

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Free trade has been in the news lately, with protests planned this week in Miami during a meeting of nations involved in the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) talks. Last week, the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. trade deficit widened to $41.3 billion in September on the heels of a record $127.4 billion in imports in September. Free-trade advocates argue that reducing tariffs benefits both sides in economic relations, while opponents claim free-trade zones produce a relentless search for the bottom line that only benefits the very wealthiest in society. What do you think? Are free-trade zones a good idea, or do they do more harm than good?

Please limit your response to 80 words or less. The best entries reflecting the balance of opinions expressed will be published on throughout the week.

Some of your responses:

Free trade is not a ghost terrifying the taxpayers. Opening the market offers everybody a fair chance to gain one's livelihood. Why should hard work not pay off? As Darwin said: "Only the fittest will survive!"
Andreas Kiesl

Of course the U.S. should pursue free-trade policies. If the world's leading nation resorts to protectionism, what hope is there that others will open their borders? History shows that protection not only closes markets, but also minds (Germany in the 1930s). Free trade guarantees more choice, lower prices, and ultimately more jobs. Protection is only afforded to special interests who can lobby the government for unwarranted aid, as is the case in the steel industry in the U.S. and in Europe.
Alexander Law
Paris, France

Free trade should only be pursued to the point in which we obtain full transparent agreements with countries of similar economic status. What's the point of fighting with one arm tied behind your back with a country that does not have the same environmental or labor laws that we do? It's the law of diminishing returns.
Peter Chung
Berkeley, Calif.

Generally speaking, yes. In the long run, free trade benefits all and restricted trade with high tariffs, etc. harms all. In the short run, however, moderation is suggested to reduce job displacement and market disorder. Driving a car requires navigation. You cannot blindly put the pedal to the metal and think everything will be OK.
Mike Mathers
North Carolina

Anything less is simply the heavy hand of the government trying to save some jobs by destroying others, all at the point of a gun. The purpose of government is to protect our God-given freedoms, not to alleviate the consequences of an incompetent lifestyle. Compete, be better than the other guy, or get out. I do not appreciate being forced at gunpoint to anesthetize people to the consequences of their choices at my expense. Get the hell out of my way.
Evan Lang
Terre Haute, Ind.

There is no question that the U.S. should pursue free-trade policies. Free trade in and of itself benefits everybody involved and does not contribute to unemployment at home or worker exploitation abroad. These and other problems that are often attributed to free trade arise as a result of unfavorable business conditions, of which free trade is not the cause and to which free trade is not the solution. A comprehensive strategy including both free trade and appropriate business policies can maximize the benefits of free trade for all involved.
Adam Bonneau
Durham, N.C.

Import duties raise prices for American consumers and protect the price gouging of local producers. Subsidies are another corruption of free markets, channeling taxpayer money into the pockets of the largest and most wealthy American farms and businesses.
Gordon Petrequin

No, free trade is only good for those who are already powerful. There are no incentives to protect workers, but the wealthiest few are free to amass as much wealth as possible. It's the wrong question anyway. Why do we even call it free trade when we subsidize certain private sectors and impose tariffs on foreign goods? Both of which are complete violations of the very concept of free trade.
Jarrod Powell
Burlington, Ky.

Free trade is a nice theory. But American jobs need to be protected, and the wages of those countries we wish to trade with need to be fair and balanced so that American workers are not forced into lesser-paying jobs and foreign nationals' labor is not exploited by corporations' greed.
Richard Kohli
Toledo, Ohio

Yes, the U.S. should because it will allow the country to sell its products to other countries without having to pay the export taxes, which are outrageous. American products in other countries are much more expensive than they should because of taxes and exchange rate. Once a free-trade maket is open all those prices would come down, making it more viable and accessible.
Braulio Clemente
Mount Pleasant, Mich.

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