Free trade has lifted mankind to a level of wealth that was recently unimaginable. In 1990, 38 percent of human beings lived in extreme poverty; today, that figure has fallen to 8 per cent, as previously closed African and Asian economies have joined the global market.
Yet, paradoxically, free trade has never been so out of fashion. Across the world, idealistic people march against trade deals, protest G20 summits, occupy stock exchanges, sincerely believing that, in doing so, they are standing up for the poor against multinational corporations – when, in reality, they are doing the opposite.
Politicians naturally respond to public opinion. The Uruguay Round, concluded in 1994, was the last successful comprehensive multilateral trade negotiation. Trade barriers have been on the rise globally, which has led to declining world trade volumes - even before the COVID pandemic struck.
We need to recapture the moral case for open commerce. Free trade is not simply a way to buy cheaper iPhones. It is the ultimate instrument of poverty alleviation, conflict resolution and social justice.
IFT seeks to recapture the intellectual and moral case for free trade, and to change government policy toward revitalising the global economy. We pursue this through three dedicated work streams:
EDUCATE CIVIL SOCIETY
No one is born a free trader. We will use videos and online resources to explain the concepts of free trade in a way designed to appeal to sceptics – which is to say, to almost everyone. We also contribute to teaching University modules in economics, and host an in-house Summer School for future leaders.
We will reach out to businesses and interest groups around the world, particularly in developing countries. We will bring them together to look at specific ways in which eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers will lead to general prosperity. We will publish country-by-country and sector-by-sector studies showing how FTAs will benefit participating economies.
We will use our extensive networks within governments to promote new trade agreements and to make sure that they focus on mutual recognition rather than standardisation – in other words, that they benefit consumers rather than producers. We will work closely with, though independently of, the UK’s Department for International Trade, with a focus on facilitating economic diplomacy internationally, and unilateral liberalisation at home too.
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