Free trade leads to moderation
In today’s NYTimes, When Trade Leads to Tolerance, Robert B. Zoellick, United States trade representative, states (my highlights),
To capitalize on this new interest in combining modernity with the Muslim world, President Bush outlined a plan last year to achieve a Middle East Free Trade Area. Now Morocco in the Maghreb is joining with Jordan by signing a free-trade agreement with the United States. Following fast, the United States and Bahrain just concluded free trade negotiations a few weeks ago, and we look forward to signing that agreement next.
These leaders have inspired the interest of others. The United States has now signed trade facilitation framework agreements with eight other Arab countries, from Algeria to Yemen, as a preliminary step toward free trade. Piece by piece, the administration is building a mosaic of modernizers with a plan that offers trade and openness as tools for Muslim leaders looking toward the rebirth of an optimistic and tolerant Islam.
. . . The agreements with Morocco and Bahrain, like the Jordan agreement, require our partners to enforce their labor and environmental laws and strive to upgrade standards. The critics ignore the labor reforms Morocco has already enacted. The United States is the only nation pressing to include enforceable labor and environmental protections in its trade agreements.
As Mr Zoellick explains in the article, “free-trade agreements are a powerful way to strengthen openness and democracy, counter poverty, encourage tolerance and promote better working conditions”. I firmly believe that having our country end all agricultural subsidies and tarrifs will do more for all the underdeveloped countries’ economies (and their societies) than any amount of foreign aid.