Is Free Trade Passé? Essay

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“Free trade is not passé, but is an idea that has irretrievably lost its innocence” (Krugman, 1987, p.132). In his article, Is Free Trade Passé, Paul Krugman writes that the classical trade theory has been replaced with a new trade theory. The classical trade theory is based on constant returns to scale and perfect competition, is driven by comparative advantage, and endorses free trade. This classical theory emphasized the idea that trade was brought about by differences in tastes, technology, or factor endowments between countries (Krugman, 1987). However, the new theory of international trade is driven by increasing returns to scale, also known as economies of scale, and leads to imperfect competition (Carbaugh, 2011).…show more content…
However, it was apparent to economists that nations with similar resource endowments exchanged similar products with each other. Economists felt that trade explained solely by comparative advantage was an incomplete analysis of international trade. Furthermore, since the classical trade theory was unable to explain intraindustry trade, economists decided to expand on the classical trade theory by creating a new theory of trade (Carbaugh, 2011). The new theory states that economies of scale provide incentive for a country to specialize in a particular product (Carbaugh, 2011). Furthermore, based on economies of scale, nations with similar factor endowments will trade with each other as sometimes it is beneficial (Carbaugh, 2011). Arguments stemming from this new trade theory puts the economic case for free trade in doubt. Krugman presents two arguments against free trade based on the new trade theory. The first argument that opposes free trade is strategic trade policy. When a nation employs a strategic trade policy, the nation’s government subsidizes its firm’s production of a particular good in an industry that can only support a few firms because of substantial economies of scale. By supporting its firm in international competition, the nation could potentially shift excess returns from foreign to domestic through an export subsidy. Strategic trade policy asserts that a country can raise its national income at another country’s
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