Can Free Trade Guarantee Gains from Trade?
Static and dynamic gains from trade are the reasons why countries embark on the path of free trade, expecting this to promote industrialization and development. There is nothing, however, in the conventional theory of international trade that guarantees that these gains will materialize and even if they do, they may not accelerate industrialization and growth. This is because there are a number of deleterious effects that the same theory omits and/or ignores. They are, inter alia, the monetary effects of trade specialization on the balance of payments, loss of policy autonomy, deindustrialization and jobless growth. When the costs of free trade outweigh its benefits, the slowdown of industrialization and development are the likely results. To avoid this, gradual openness and government intervention are necessary. In this paper, these observations are examined by contrasting the experiences of China and Mexico since these economies introduced trade liberalization. The comparison sheds light on the type of policies that both open and still closed developing economies currently need to implement if they want to reap the static and dynamic gains from trade, and thus make real economic progress.
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