Unfree Trade

From the FT today:

No one should forget that all countries rely on open trade to feed their populations. But we are already seeing actions at the national level, such as curbs on food exports, that have a damaging global impact. Completing the Doha round would play a critically helpful role in this regard, as it would reduce trade barriers and distortions and encourage agricultural trade.

With world food prices already on the rise as a result of ethanol policy, opening up trade to drive down prices and increase supply should certainly be a priority. Sadly, as Cato’s Sallie James points out, the two leading presidential contenders in the Democratic race have taken increasingly hostile views of open trade. Her summary:

Voters could expect a President McCain to promote freer trade and cuts in market-distorting subsidies, and a President Clinton or a President Obama to view free trade between voluntary actors as something to be restrained, loaded with conditions, or counterbalanced by an expansion of the welfare state.

In other words, Clinton and Obama believe in free trade — just as long as it isn’t really free.