What are the pros and cons of free trade?

Free trade can provide consumers with access to goods at lower prices. It can provide domestic employment opportunities that would not otherwise be available, resulting in higher levels of illegal immigration. In some cases, however, it results in competition that destroys industries in a nation. There are also risks that free trade could lead developed nations to support working conditions in a developing nation that it would not allow.

One of the benefits of free trade is that tariffs are often reduced or eliminated. This means that a producer's goods are often more attractive to foreign consumers and that those consumers can buy those goods at lower prices. Free trade can also result in low prices because goods can be produced in the nation that has the raw materials to make them. If a country's companies first buy raw materials from a foreign source and then pay workers to create the final product, retail prices for those items can be substantially higher. In some cases, quality is also compromised when raw materials are imported because people in the country where those raw materials are located may be better qualified to work with them.

Competition in business is generally considered a positive element. However, one of the disadvantages of free trade is that it can subject markets to overwhelming competition. In some cases, after a nation enters into such an agreement, it may witness the destruction of an industry or massive job losses, because it becomes advantageous to obtain products or services available in the country from a foreign source at a cheaper price.

When properly implemented, free trade agreements can be used to combat illegal immigration. Landlocked nations often face these problems. When a country is richer than its neighbor, people try to cross borders in search of a better life. However, if nations with strong economies allow poorer nations easy access to their markets, they can provide employment opportunities that will encourage people to stay in their home countries.

Another disadvantage of free trade is that it can result in a developed country directly or inadvertently supporting behavior it would not allow at home. In some developing countries, production workers are paid extremely low wages, child labor is exploited and working conditions can be precarious. When these countries have access to the large markets of the developed nations, the citizens of the developed nations become partisans of these circumstances and these injustices can occur on a larger scale.

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