In recent years, we have unfortunately seen how protectionism and isolation is increasingly spreading in the world. With Donald Trump as president of the United States, and with political parties in the EU advocating trade barriers and separation, free trade is presently under attack both from the right and from the left.
When Britain leaves the EU in 2019, Sweden loses a close alliance in the fight for free trade. Therefore, it is more important than ever to continue to work in actively spreading the advantages and benefits of free trade.
Free trade brings many benefits. Increased trade with the outside world means more efficient resource utilization. We specialize in what we are best at, while importing other products without fees. It makes us all richer. It is not a coincidence that the countries who have been open to trade with the outside world are also the countries who have had the fastest prosperity development relative to other countries.
At the same time, opponents argue that the major free trade agreements undermine democracy and primarily serve the interests of big companies. This is not true. For example, the EU-Canada Agreement, CETA, which is the most comprehensive Free Trade Agreement in the world, has eliminated the possibility for companies to sue states in private proceedings and instead opened it up to public arbitration tribunals.
But the EU’s free trade policy is much more than just establishing agreements with already rich countries. The EU is the world’s largest trading partner with developing countries, where the GSP and GSP + trade programs have not only resulted in reduced tariffs and increased welfare for the countries covered, but have also brought great democratic progress in developing countries.
We live in a globalized era where the world economy grows when entrepreneurs get the opportunity to develop their ideas, can easily finance their projects, and can act without problems in multiple markets.
The world economy, on the other hand, shrinks when countries put trade barriers to the outside world and make it difficult for free goods, ideas and technology to flow between nations.
We are forced to choose between working constructively and being leading actors in the context of free trade in times of globalization, or to bury our heads in the sand like ostriches and deny that globalization is a fact to shape our decisions. For me, it is an easy choice – the EU should work for a more open world where we cooperate and trade with each other. We must not allow the protectionist forces to set the agenda and build walls and other trade barriers, but to break down the existing obstacles.