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Trade Wars: The Exaggerated Impact of Trade in Economic Debate

  • Richard B. Freeman

The rules governing trade and capital flows have been at the centre of controversy as globalisation has proceeded. One reason is the belief that trade and capital flows have massive effects on the labour market - either positive, per the claims of international financial institutions and free trade enthusiasts, or negative, per the ubiquitous protestors at WTO, IMF and World Bank meetings demanding global labour standards. Comparing the claims made in this debate with the outcomes of trade agreements, this paper finds that the debate has exaggerated the effects of trade on economies and the labour market. Changes in trade policy have had modest impacts on the labour market. Other aspects of globalisation - immigration, capital flows and technology transfer - have greater impacts, with volatile capital flows creating great risk for the well-being of workers. As for labour standards, global standards do not threaten the comparative advantage of developing countries nor do poor labour standards create a 'race to the bottom'. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2004.

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Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal The World Economy.

Volume (Year): 27 (2004)
Issue (Month): 1 (01)
Pages: 1-23

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Handle: RePEc:bla:worlde:v:27:y:2004:i:1:p:1-23
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