Trade protectionism limits our futures

This article was developed as a case for free trade during the first Mulroney administration and published in The Gazette, Montreal, Tuesday, February 9, 1988.

As the final debate on free trade rages in Parliament and the nation, Canadians continue to be confronted by conflicting statistical forecasts about the future of our economy.

Some reports present attractive prospects for growth under a free trade agreement. Others paint disparaging pictures of lost jobs and dying industries. The growing mosaic of political, cultural and commercial opinion has probably produced more confusion than conviction.

Given a somewhat conflicting array of “hard facts” and “information based” reports from a wide variety of interested parties, perhaps we should take a moment the general question of trade at a more philosophical level.

Regarding the free-trade proposal Canadians might begin by reflecting on some generally accepted economic principles. The case for trade is really the case for specializing in certain types of production and trading for goods in which we do not specialize. Most economists agree that living standards would be drastically reduced if we tried to replace specialization and exchange with complete self-sufficiency.

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