Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Free trade good ....

or at least so more Americans seem to think. According to a recent Pew survey, despite the economic recession, public support for free trade agreements has recovered after having declined a year ago. Currently, 44% of Americans say that free trade agreements like NAFTA and the policies of the World Trade Organization are good for America, up from 35% a year ago. Slightly more than a third (35%) say that such agreements and policies are bad for the country, down from 48% in April 2008. The results of the Pew survey since 1997 are given in the table below,

The Pew Research Center write
The current balance of opinion is more in line with long-term trends when compared with the April 2008 measure. Last year marked the first time in a measure dating to 1997 that a plurality viewed free trade agreements and policies negatively. The current measure is identical to December 2006 and comparable with opinions in 2005 and 2004. Support for NAFTA and other free trade agreements in policies peaked at 49% in early September 2001; at that time, 29% said they were bad for the country.
The Pew Center goes on to note,
The public expresses more support for unspecified free trade agreements with other countries than it does for free trade agreements “like NAFTA and the policies of the World Trade Organization.” While most respondents were asked a question that mentioned these specific agreements and policies, a smaller group was asked their opinion of “free trade agreements between the U.S. and other countries;” 52% say such agreements are a good thing for the United States while 14% say they are a bad thing; 14% offer no opinion.
So there appears to be more general support for ‘free trade’ than support for specific trade agreements. Increasing support for free trade is good, we can only hope that US politicians take note of what the public are saying.


ClydeB said...

I'd bet that 90% of the respondents in favor of free trade do not even know what it means or what is at stake. The US is subsidizing the payroll in several foreign countries in the guise of free trade. If 'free traders' take the time to compare the per-capita trade with Japan, Germany, Ireland, Mexico or China, the disparity would change their minds.

Stephen Monrad said...

I agree with ClydeB. Even economists disagree about the benefits of trade. It's a complex subject. I think it is kind of silly to ask people in the general public about their opinions about things they can't possibly understand. You wouldn't ask them about the benefits of heart bypass surgery. Why ask them about the economy?

Just because people think free trade is good doesn't mean it is.