While free trade is generally beneficial, removing a trade barrier to a given asset harms shareholders and workers in the domestic industry that produces that good. Some groups that are aggrieved by foreign competition have sufficient political power to protect themselves from imports. As a result, despite their considerable economic costs, trade barriers continue to exist. For example, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the U.S. benefit from lifting trade restrictions on textiles and clothing would have been nearly $12 billion in 2002. This is a net economic benefit after deducting losses suffered by businesses and workers in the domestic industry. Nevertheless, local textile producers were able to convince Congress to maintain strict import restrictions. Unilateral trade policies, such as tariffs, work very well in the short term.
Tariffs increase import prices. As a result, prices for locally produced products appear to be lower in comparison. This stimulates economic growth and creates jobs. The WTO is a negotiating forum on the liberalization of world trade. The EU negotiates within the WTO on behalf of all EU countries. Let us assume, for example, that Japan sells bicycles for $50, that Mexico sells them for $60, and that they both expect a $20 dollar in the United States. If tariffs on Mexican products are removed, U.S. consumers will transfer their purchases of Japanese bicycles to Mexican bicycles. The result is that Americans will buy from a more expensive source, and the U.S. government does not receive customs revenue. Consumers save $10 per bike, but the government loses $20. Economists have shown that when a country enters such a “trade” customs union, the cost of trade diversion can outweigh the benefits of enhanced trade with other members of the customs union.
The result is that the customs union could degrade the country. Some regional trade agreements are multilateral. The most important was the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), ratified on January 1, 1994. Nafta quadrupled trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico from 1993 to 2018. The U.S.-Mexico Agreement (USMCA) came into force on July 1, 2020. The USMCA was a new trade agreement between the three countries, negotiated under President Donald Trump. The third advantage is that it normalizes trade rules for all trading partners. Businesses save court costs because they follow the same rules for each country. Some countries, such as Britain in the 19th century and Chile and China in recent decades, have implemented unilateral tariff reductions – reductions that have been made independently and without contrary action by other countries. The advantage of unilateral free trade is that a country can immediately benefit from the benefits of free trade. Countries that remove trade barriers alone do not need to postpone reforms while trying to convince other nations to follow suit. The benefits of such trade liberalization are considerable: several studies have shown that incomes are rising faster in countries that are open to international trade than in countries that are more closed to trade.
Dramatic examples of this phenomenon are the rapid growth of China after 1978 and India after 1991, with data indicating when major trade reforms took place. In 1995, GATT became the World Trade Organization (WTO), which now has more than 140 member states. The WTO controls four international trade agreements: the GATT, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights and Trade Investment Agreement (TRIPS and TRIMS). The WTO is now the forum for members to negotiate the removal of trade barriers; The most recent forum is the Doha Development Round, launched in 2001. The first WTO project was the Doha Round of Trade Agreements in 2001. It was a multilateral trade agreement