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The Contender
Con (against)
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Free trade agreements are more harmful than helpful

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/29/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,412 times Debate No: 77113
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (7)
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1st round is for accepting the debate, next 3 rounds will be arguing points.



I accept your debate!
Debate Round No. 1


I'd like to begin by thanking my opponent for accepting this debate. Good luck to you.

Now, for my argument as to why free trade agreements are more harmful than helpful I offer the following contentions:

Contention 1: Free trade agreements cause massive loss of jobs and increased trade deficit.

Every major free trade agreement that's been proposed to congress, such as NAFTA and KORUS, have been introduced with the promise of revitalizing the economy and making everyone better off. This is not and has never been the case. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was passed over 2 decades ago, we've seen a loss of over 1 million U.S. jobs and a $181 billion trade deficit. The US - Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) was no better, causing a net loss of 75,000 jobs and a trade deficit of over $12 billion. (Source: Economic Policy Institute) Now with Obama trying to pass the TPP, it's unbelievable that some people still haven't gotten the message. From a strictly objective standpoint, free trade agreements are more harmful than helpful to the average middle class American.

Contention 2: Free trade agreements cause unfair competetion between Americans and those in other countries, causing a lower standard of living.

Free Trade forces the average American worker to compete directly with the workers in low-wage foreign countries who pay their workers as little as $60 a month. With Free Trade, corporations can move factories to these countries for profit, causing a massive outsourcing of American jobs. When American workers lose their well-paying jobs, they then have no income and are forced to look for a new job, often times a job that pays less. With a lower income and no way to maintain the previous buying they had before, eventually, the unemployed or underemployed worker will have to cut back on his or her spending, lowering their standard of living.

Contention 3: Free trade agreements contribute to income inequality.

Trade agreements like NAFTA have contributed to growing income inequality and to the declining relative wages of U.S. workers without college degrees. The growth in U.S. trade and trade deficits has put downward pressure on the wages of workers without college degrees, especially those who have no formal education beyond a high school degree. These U.S. workers bear the brunt of the costs and pressures of globalization. A large and growing body of research has demonstrated that expanding trade has reduced the price of import-competing products and put downward pressure on the real wages of workers engaged in producing these goods. Trade, however, is also expected to increase the wages of the workers producing exports, but growing trade deficits have meant that the number of workers hurt by imports has exceeded the number who have benefited through increased exports. Because the United States tends to import goods that make intensive use of skills of less-educated workers in production, the increasing openness of the U.S. economy to trade has reduced the wages of less-educated workers relative to other workers in the United States, causing an increased growth of income inequality.

Contention 4: Free trade agreements lead to dangerous working conditions and environmental damage.

As underdeveloped countries attempt to cut costs to gain a price advantage, many workers in these countries face low pay, substandard working conditions and even forced labor and abusive child labor. Most developing countries insist any attempt to include working conditions in trade agreements is meant to end their cost advantage in the world market, which allows them to have free reign over the abusive conditions they allow their citizens to work in. In addition, the increase of corporate farms in developing countries increases pesticide and energy use, and many countries ignore the costly environmental standards included in most trade agreements. The greed of those countries involved in free trade agreements often times stops them from thinking morally and in regards to the common man and his environment.



Thank you Pro! I will argue that free trade has multiple advantages over protectionism.

C1: Mutually Beneficial

All countries will have a comparative advantage in producing some goods – when it has the lowest opportunity cost, according to David Ricardo’s economic theory [1]. Although nations such as the United States may have an absolute advantage in both the production of corn and aircraft compared to Ethiopia, the United States – which has a rich capital stock – will have a comparative advantage in aircraft. If the USA tried to be self-sufficient, it would incur high opportunity costs (foregoing the production of plenty of aircraft). The USA would be better off trading aircraft (its comparative advantage) for corn (Ethiopia’s comparative advantage). The USA will be better off, and so will Ethiopia, both nations will experience gains of trade from the specialization of labor.

Free trade maximizes efficiency, and therefore prosperity, by allowing the private sector to productively allocate resources to where they generate the highest returns.

C2: A Capital Surplus or Trade Surplus

A nation may import more than they export (depending on the value of receipts). However, a trade deficit is entirely offset by a capital surplus. This is because although a nation may have a negative current account (trade deficit), it will be offset by a positive financial account (capital surplus). Either way, a nation benefits economically.

To put it another way, the Chinese may have a trade surplus with the United States, but this surplus of dollars will have to be put back entirely in the U.S. economy, either through the purchase of U.S. goods or the purchase of U.S. assets (public or private). Those dollars are useless in China, which uses the yuan.

C3: Economic Benefits

Free trade allows nations and innumerable firms to compete. This competition spurs higher quality and cost-cutting to attract sales.

Trade benefits the economy in many ways, including:

  1. Lower costs of production
  2. Technological innovation
  3. Economic development

First, trade helps to expand production. Free trade will allow producers to minimize the cost of inputs, leading to lower costs of production (and thus lower prices).

Second, trade spurs technological innovation. Firms must invest in R&D and develop cutting-edge products to be competitive. By opening the borders to trade, firms adapt or are dislocated. Trade allows national economies to grow and evolve technologically.

Third, trade is crucial for economic growth. The foundation for any healthy economy includes institutions such as rule of law, property rights, freedom of contract, and open markets [2]. Free trade is a critical ingredient in economic freedom, and higher economic freedom is strongly linked to higher economic growth.

C4: Benefits Consumers

There are multiple advantages to free trade, and I have detailed several of them. An important fact to consider is that trade benefits consumers.

Free trade spurs competition which leads to quality improvements and cost-cutting. This benefits consumers, which is why trade has increased the average American’s paycheck by $2,000 a year [3].

When consumers have more affordable goods, they have more disposable income. This allows aggregate demand to increase. Tariffs impose high prices on consumers, which weakens aggregate demand and the economy.

C4: Job Creation

Comparative advantage will produce dislocation, but this churning will make the economy more efficient and ultimately more prosperous (through lower opportunity costs). This happened when the personal computer replaced the typewriter, when petroleum replaced kerosene, and when the automobile replaced horse-drawn carriages. Trade achieves the same effect, through consumer choice and the free flow of resources. A dynamic, innovative economy requires free trade.

Free trade produces jobs in several ways:

  1. International investment
  2. Lowering prices
  3. Export-supported jobs

First, trade leads to international investment. Nations where we have a trade deficit – say China – use their dollars to invest in the United States, either through FDI, investing in financial markets, or buying exports.

Second, imports help keep prices down for American consumers. The $2,000 that Americans have in their paycheck helps spur consumer demand, savings and investment here in the United States. It is effectively a “tax cut” that stimulates our economy and job creation.

Lower prices in the form of inputs can augment national economies as well. One source indicates that 80% “of global trade takes place across global supply chains and within multinational corporations”. Lower tariffs will make American firms more competitive and efficient at producing goods and services [8]. Thus, lower tariffs could help local industries grow and expand.

Third, exports sustain millions of jobs. In 2012, 14% of U.S. GDP was accounted for by exports. This is the equivalent of over 11 million jobs. These jobs also pay higher. [9] [10]

C5: Promotes Peace and Democracy

First, trade fosters peace. There are dual reasons for this phenomenon, including:

  1. Cultural integration
  2. Economic incentives

Trade brings on onrush of products across national borders. The Japanese wield iPhones, while they drink Coca Cola and browse on their personal computers with Windows software. Simultaneously, Americans drive Toyotas and Hyundai cars as we embrace South Korean video games. Trade brings people closer together.

There are economic incentives with trade that also promote peace. The United States imports significant quantities of footwear, consumer durables, and steel. The Japanese also import vast amounts of fossil fuels and food. Globalization and free trade has brought nations and people closer and increasingly interconnected, which sows the seeds of peace and prosperity.

Empirical data also validates this claim; a negative correlation has been established between free trade and conflict [6].

Second, trade promotes democracy.

Trade also promotes peace and democracy. As national economies develop, a civil society evolves and the population becomes increasingly politically and economically aware.

This link has been shown in Chile, South Korea, the former Soviet Union (glasnost), and increasingly China.


Economists have broad agreement – free trade is beneficial and a net gain for society. In fact, “87.5% agree that the U.S. should eliminate remaining tariffs and other barriers to trade.” [5]

There is also a logical argument for free trade. By allowing products to flow across national borders, competition spurs higher quality and cost-cutting, while incentivizing innovation and creativity. Consumers benefit from lower prices, economies become more efficient and produce high-quality, productive jobs, while nations bond and yield the fruits of trade through peace and international integration.



[2] Issues in American Economic History (2004). Miller & Sexton. Print.

[3] C. Fred Bergsten, director of the Institute for International Economics, Foreign Affairs (89)

[4] As quoted in Nikolaus Piper, "Trade, Globalization and Integration: Some Lessons from Hamburg's History," paper presented at the Mont Pelerin Society meeting, Hamburg, Germany, April 3-6, 2004.

[5] Whaples, Robert (2006). "Do Economists Agree on Anything? Yes!". The Economists' Voice






Debate Round No. 2


Thank you, Con. I'd like to take this round to rebut some of Con's claims to further explain my point of view. I will allow him to do the same and then we will move into closing statements.

All of the contentions offered by Con in the previous round focused on one general topic, being the global economy. While it may be true that free trade offers higher economic freedom and competition, does this outweight the cost?

C1: Low to middle income prosperity is NOT increased by free trade.

Con claims that "free trade maximizes efficiency, and therefore prosperity, by allowing the private sector to productively allocate resources to where they generate the highest returns." This sounds great, but does the increase in free trade correlate to an increase in prosperity? Unfortunately, no. Free trade agreements do not increase economic prosperity in middle to low income households and only promote income inequality by fueling a race to the bottom, where countries focus on profit moreso than the economic needs of their workers.

Since NAFTA and WTO took effect around 1995, our trade deficit has widened steadily, except for the 2008 crash, which cut imports more than exports. Factories in America closed, entire industries declined, and millions of good jobs moved offshore. In America, workers are pressured to accept wage cuts, loss of job security, elimination of pensions, and more shifting of medical costs. Why do we insist on underperforming trade policies that enrich the elite few, yet undermine civil society in America and abroad, while doing real harm to workers and communities?

C2: Trade Deficits

In con's argument, he talks about the national economic benefits of trade deficits vs. capital surplus. Con argues that capital surplus completely offsets trade deficits and thus we have nothing to worry about. This, too, is simply not the case. Trade deficits have harmed the domestic economy in a number of ways. First, deterioration in the trade balance has reduced employment, especially in manufacturing and other industries producing traded goods. The growth in the trade deficit over the past two decades has destroyed millions of high-wage, high skilled manufacturing jobs in the U.S., and pushed workers into other sectors where wages are lower. Despite the appearance of a "boom" in the economy, the U.S. has lost nearly 500,000 manufacturing jobs since March of 1998, due to the impact of the rising trade deficit.

As you can see in the figure above, trade deficits are certainly one of the most significant causes of the decline in U.S. wages. The steady growth in our trade deficits over the past two decades has eliminated millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs and drawn workers into less-profitable fields of work.

"Most economists now acknowledge that trade is responsible for 20 to 25 percent of the increase in income inequality which has occurred in the U.S. over the past two decades. However, existing research can only explain about half of the change in income inequality. Therefore, trade is responsible for about 40% of the explainable share of increased income inequality. The rest is due to forces such as declining unionization, and inflation-induced erosion in the value of the minimum wage." [1]

C3: Economic Benefits

Con argues that "free trade allows nations and innumerable firms to compete. This competition spurs higher quality and cost-cutting to attract sales." While it is true that free trade most definitely increases economic competition between nations in a race to cut costs and make profit, is this a good thing for the general public? I argue that no, it is not. The bottom line is that small businesses cannot compete on a global scale when we allow unrestricted trade. Free trade promotes the growth of multinational corporations who can farm their labor out to the cheapest source, which leads to cheaper prices that drive smaller competitors out of business. Morally, this is simply not right. The Small Business Exporters Association found in a recent survey that over 15% of small-business exporters say they’ve been hurt by free-trade agreements with other countries. This could easily become a larger number if we allow more bills like the TPP to pass through congress. As I've mentioned before, unrestricted free trade simply promotes the existence of massively large corporations and increasing income inequality.

C4: Consumer Benefits

Con argues that "when consumers have more affordable goods, they have more disposable income," while when tarrifs are in place, "this weakens aggregate demand and the economy." It is undeniable that unrestricted trade lowers the cost of goods, which as I've detailed in previous arguments, is not worth the global cost. I'd like to lay out the multitudes of ways in which free trade is negative on the consumer:

1. A recent study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) showed the TPP would mean a pay cut for 90% of US workers. [2]

2. Free trade threatens the availablity of less expensive, generic medications [3]

3. Free trade lowers the safety standards of imported food products [4]

4. The TPP is expected to create a loss of over 1 million jobs as companies shift work to low-wage countries [5]

5. Free trade limits the authority of local governments to restrict permits to extraction and export of liquid nature gas to partner countries, which could lead to an increase in fracking [6]

6. Products with "fair trade," "animal-friendly," and "GMO-free" labels are considered trade barriers under free trade and restrict the freedom of the consumer [7]

7. "Buy local" policies are outlawed under the TPP and additionally restrict the freedom of the consumer [8]

8. Government officials can be SUED if they attempt to prefer local products over imports [9]

I could go on, but I think you get the message. In no way does free trade seriously benefit the consumer.

C5: Job Creation

Con argues that free trade produces jobs through "international investment, lowering prices, and export-supported jobs." Free trade may create some jobs, but in NO way is this enough to offset jobs lost. According to the Economic Policy Institute, "as of 2010, U.S. trade deficits with Mexico totaling $97.2 billion had displaced 682,900 U.S. jobs.” The worst part? That's net jobs, which means the number is taking into account jobs gained as well. That means that simply through trade deficits with Mexico, we have lost nearly 700,000 jobs. In August, 2012, the EPI estimated that the US lost 2.7 million jobs as a result of the U.S.-China trade deficit, 2.1 million of them in manufacturing. The EPI reported in July of 2013 that the US-Korea free trade agreement had already cost the US 40,000 jobs.

Again and again these trade agreements result in loss of jobs, particularly in higher-wage sectors of our economy like manufacturing, and big increases in the trade deficit. Yes, exports increased adding jobs in some sectors but imports increased more, costing more jobs than those gained. And the sectors that lost jobs tended to be higher-wage, like manufacturing.


Is unrestricted free trade worth it for the average American? No. As I've laid out above it causes a decrease in low to middle income prosperity, an increase in income inequality, an increase in trade deficit which leads to a decline in U.S. wages, unfair competition for small businesses, massive consequences for the average consumer, and disgusting losses in jobs. We need fair trade, not free trade.




Ok, I’ll rebut Pro’s R2 arguments.

R1: Free Trade Increases the Trade Deficit and Kills Jobs!

We Have a Trade Surplus or a Capital Surplus

First, the trade deficit is harmless, it is offset by a capital surplus. The flow of funds in international trade must be balanced.

Exports + Factor Income (inflow) + Transfers (inflow) + Asset Sales (inflow) =
Imports + Factor Income (outflow) + Transfers (outflow) + Asset Sales (outflow)

The Mexican people aren’t going to hide their Dollars under a blanket. They will either buy U.S. exports, purchase U.S. assets and channel capital into our economy, or save their Dollars and therefore infuse them into our financial system. Trade is not a zero-sum game – we all benefit!


Let’s be clear – jobs (labor) are an input. What the American people need is a productive economy. If we can achieve higher productivity while minimizing input costs such as labor – we all benefit from a more efficient and dynamic economy.

First, NAFTA has helped America’s economy. Scholars have found that, “[Because of NAFTA] North American firms are not more efficient and productive.” The Congressional Budget Office has found that NAFTA has overall benefited the United States, “jobs lost in industries producing tradable goods are offset to a greater or lesser extent by jobs gained in construction and investment-goods industries because of the inflow of foreign investment that must accompany the trade deficit.” [3]

Second, even if Pro’s claim was correct, it would be relatively insignificant portion of the job churn rate. Over the last 12 months up to April 2015, 60 million jobs were created while 57.2 million were destroyed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics [4]… and this is only a single year. If we were to extent this to the length of NAFTA’s lifespan, it would only have effected 1 in 1,200 jobs (0.00083%). This is more than offset by the savings from more affordable imports.

Trade also strengthens American businesses. Over 55% of U.S. imports [9] are intermediate goods, so these imports are used to lower the cost of business for American supply chains. By expanding productive capacity, it allows U.S. businesses to engage in job creation and raise wages.

R2: Free Trade Breeds Unfair Competition!

Multiple Factors influence Trade

Pro is assuming that since labor costs may be lower in developing countries, trade unambiguously harms U.S. workers.

Businesses take into account many factors when it comes to trade, such as:

  • Input costs (labor, energy, raw materials)
  • Human capital (availability of skilled workers)
  • Physical capital (cost of factories, tools, machinery)
  • Government policies (bureaucracy, tax laws, debt levels)

Pro says because we have higher labor costs, we will lose. America has a skilled workforce, abundant physical capital, among other advantages. American energy is also very affordable – energy is 4x more expensive in Germany and is a major reason firms are planting down roots in America [4].

The United States is the best place in the world for foreign investment [6], according to empirical data. We leverage affordable energy, a skilled workforce, abundant capital stock, and a relatively functioning government. Why would we throw this away?

R3: Trade increases Inequality

The impact on trade has been to benefit consumers and workers. The National Bureau of Economic Analysis found that NAFTA has led to higher wages – by 0.17% in the United States [5]. This form of higher earnings is the fruit from trade, allowing workers to produce goods where America has lower opportunity costs. This also doesn’t include the fact that consumers save over $2,000 a year in reduced prices.

Inequality itself is irrelevant. Trade leads to a more efficient and productive economy, which leads to job creation and broad prosperity, so it is a noble policy.

R4: Trade has a Negative Impact on the Environment, Working Conditions

The Environment

One of the most important indicators of environmental quality is the level of economic development. Developing nations, such as India and China, have more pollution and dangerous emissions. Once nations become more prosperous though, the firms can invest in technology that cuts back on pollution. Trade helps nations develop economically, which is why some research has found that “Freer international trade improves the environment.” [8].

The scholars also found that trade has a minimal effect on the environment, because there are many more factors at play. America has many advantages that outweigh the potential costs of environmental safeguards.

Working Conditions

Forced labor and abuse is deplorable. It shouldn’t be condoned, but it is. It isn’t a consequence of trade. It is a consequence of corrupt and inept governments.

Trade also generates innumerable opportunities for workers. The working conditions and pay may be low compared to our standard of living, but they are better than the status quo. As one economist noted, “Not only are sweatshops better than current work alternatives, but they are also part of the process of development that ultimately raises living standards.” [8]

R5: Why Not Autarky?

Pro is saying that free trade is harmful. Why then do we be completely self-sufficient (an economic autarky)? Ideologically speaking, “fair trade” will probably lead to more open trade over time. What has autarky – complete self-sufficiency – meant in reality?

Cutting off international trade damages economic development, people’s standards of living, and political environments. Some successful examples of autarky include:

  • Afghanistan under the Taliban
  • India (before 1991)
  • North Korea
  • Iran (to an extent since the inception of its nuclear program)

Cutting off trade hasn’t helped. Indeed, it has worsened the people’s standards of living. We should thus take notes and embrace a policy of free trade.


Free trade is beneficial for all nations that partake. Nations and firms can specialize in their comparative advantage, and through trade can minimize opportunity costs. High-income states like the USA can produce capital-intensive goods such as aircraft, computer processors and vehicles. Low-income states such as Mexico can produce textiles and foodstuffs. Through trade we can acquire more wealth.

Several advantages of free trade:

  • Strengthens American businesses (more affordable inputs)
  • Generates high-quality jobs (finance, advanced manufacturing, etc.)
  • Increases economic efficiency and dynamism
  • Lowers costs to consumers (about $2,000 a year)
  • Improves socio-economic and environmental conditions in developing states
  • Fosters peace and mutual respect











Debate Round No. 3


To conclude, I'd just like to restate my main points:

Lost jobs and deficit

Free trade agreements like NAFTA and TPP cause devastating damage to the American middle class. Through deficits with Mexico alone we've lost nearly 700,000 high-skilled manufacturing jobs, and that number rises to 2.7 million when looking at the U.S.-China free trade agreement. It is important to keep in mind that these are net jobs lost, meaning that all jobs gained are taken into account as well. Either way you look at it, free trade agreements have a negative impact on the manufacturing sector, causing companies to outsource millions of decent paying American jobs.

Impact on the middle class

Free trade has lead to the decline of U.S. wages and an increase in income inequality. The massive outsourcing of jobs we've seen under these agreements and the freedom they have given to the biggest companies allows them to continue growing in power, seemingly endlessly. During the past few decades, we've seen the middle class dissapear, and free trade has been a huge contributor. "Most economists now acknowledge is responsible for about 40% of the explainable share of increased income inequality." [1]

Restricited consumer freedom

While the increase in importing and overall wider availability of goods is a benefit of free trade, this does not negate some of the very harmful terms present in many of our free trade agreements. Under them, consumer freedom has actually been reduced.

Free trade threatens the availablity of less expensive, generic medications [3]

Free trade lowers the safety standards of imported food products [4]

Free trade limits the authority of local governments to restrict permits to extraction and export of liquid nature gas to partner countries, which could lead to an increase in fracking [6]

Products with "fair trade," "animal-friendly," and "GMO-free" labels are considered trade barriers under free trade and restrict the freedom of the consumer [7]

"Buy local" policies are outlawed under the TPP and additionally restrict the freedom of the consumer [8]

Government officials can be SUED if they attempt to prefer local products over imports [9]

Disregard for the environment and worker safety - unfair competetion

Environmental policies in many free trade agreements are seen as "trade barriers," which means the United States has in essence allowed foreign countries to compete with them on a level in which they've been allowed to use sweat shop workers and environmentally dangerous practices to advance their industry. "Neither CAFTA nor the FTAA require member countries to adopt internationally recognized standards for environmental protection. Nor does either agreement ensure that member countries don’t lower or waive their existing environmental laws in an effort to attract investment. What’s more, rules in CAFTA and the FTAA would actually prohibit member countries from enacting many new environmental regulations, allowing those regulations to be challenged as 'barriers to trade.'" [10] In essence, this would allow foreign countries to not play by the same rules we do, breeding unfair competition and encouraging even more companies to outsource jobs to foreign industries.


I'd like to clarify that in no way am I promoting economic isolation in the form of extreme protectionism, but rather, I'm pointing out the blatant flaws in free trade that negatively impact the American middle class and our environment. Like all things, we must find a middle ground, and I believe that free trade is as much of an extreme as autarky, and we must effectively regulate it in order to give everyone a good deal.

So to conclude, free trade is a raw deal for the majority of Americans. Either through a decline in wages, outsourcing of jobs, the steady dissapearance of the middle class, or the restriction placed on the consumer under these agreements, I don't believe that the benifits of free trade outweigh the costs placed on the average American worker.

Again I'd like to thank con for the debate, and I'll allow him to make his closing statements as well.


Thank you Pro for your arguments. My arguments will consist of rebuttals and concluding statements.

R1: Free Trade INCREASES Prosperity

Trade Surplus or Current Account Surplus

Pro shows a graph – the United States has a negative goods balance. This is accurate. But this ignores the other half of the coin – the positive financial account balance.

The flow of funds between two countries must equal out. If the Chinese end up with more Dollars (through their current account surplus), they have no option besides either buying U.S. exports or buying U.S. financial assets… in either way, it is mathematically impossible for the United States to have both a trade deficit and a financial account deficit.

The U.S. currently benefits from free trade in many ways, such as the flows of capital investment.


“Factories in America closed, entire industries declined, and millions of goods jobs moved offshore.”

First, the United States has the most productive manufacturing industry in the world. [1] Free trade will allow us to capitalize on this advantage. We will be able to export high value-added goods and services, and import labor-intensive goods such as textiles. We don't want these jobs, we want jobs that will support a vibrant middle class and the American Dream. If we are stuck with self-sufficiency, the hopes and dreams of our people will fade.

Second, trade allows U.S. firms to lower their input costs, which supports investment and job creation domestically.

Third, the United States is the most attractive nation in the world for investment.

Fourth, trade is allowing the United States to specialize in highly valuable capital-intensive products.

When Pro says “millions of good jobs” were outsourced, what source is he using?

The vast majority of “outsourcing” occurs when U.S. firms invest to meet foreign demand. Over 75% of the time U.S. businesses invest in nations in Europe and wealthy countries to meet demand there. [2]

Were “millions of good jobs were outsourced” to places like China and Mexico? Are jobs leaving because of lax regulations and low wages? No.

The United States is specializing in capital-intensive final goods, whether this includes chemicals, vehicles, aircraft, or advanced manufacturing. Trade is vital for our national economy because it allows American firms to be competitive – firms can import affordable inputs and integrate them into their supply chain. If we cut off free trade, American firms will have higher costs, and this will kill jobs, innovation, and America’s economic growth.

Jobs that have moved abroad are low-skill jobs, such as making textiles or light manufactured goods. America will be more prosperous if we can use our labor for productive goods, such as vehicles, engineering, health care, and natural gas extraction. If we cut off trade, we will instead be forced to make our own underwear and socks, and we will have a smaller and less efficient economy as a consequence.


“Trade deficits… have drawn workers into less-profitable fields of work”

American wages have steadily increased, but the debate isn’t about this topic.

The United States is the best place in the world for investment, a consequence of our infrastructure, rule of law, functioning government, and skilled workforce. Free trade is allowing the United States to export northwards of $1 trillion a year in areas like cars, integrated circuits, medical instruments, and computers [3].

The idea that companies will take high value-added jobs to places with a less educated workforce and a less developed country is ludicrous. It would be a poor business decision.

R2: Economic Benefits

“Small-businesses say they’ve been hurt by free-trade agreements.”

There is an obvious flaw in this – if a small business has to cut prices to remain competitive, it technically has been “hurt”, but the consumer benefits.

Pro doesn’t respond to the claim that Americans save over $2,000 a year because of cheaper imports.

“Free trade… outlaws ‘buy local’ policies”

Free trade is when goods and services can freely flow across international borders with minimal governmental intervention. If consumers support products such as liquid natural gas, “safe” food, or generic medications, they wouldn’t be harmed by free trade. Consumers are free to purchase local goods, it is up to the consumer's discretion.

“Free trade lowers wages.”

Pro’s source – if this is considered accurate – shows a pay reduction of up to 0.5%. For the average American, the benefit of cheaper imports would offset the wage reduction by a factor of 5 [4] [5].

“Free trade lowers the safety standards of imported food products.”

If consumers are concerned that a producer is being frivolous and providing a shoddy quality, competition will help whittle down the number of producers, to those providing cheap food and those providing high-quality food and everything in between.

“Free trade has cost nearly 700,000 jobs”

These figures have been heavily questioned. The economic model is linear – i.e. it assumes higher imports means fewer jobs and vice-versa [2]. However, the “correlation between imports and GDP is a strongly positive 62%” (with exports, the correlation is 45%). [6] Therefore, this statistic is ludicrous.

Higher imports help the economy too by providing more affordable consumer goods and less costly inputs. In addition, U.S. jobs are created throughout U.S. firms’ supply chains.

Benefits of Trade

  • Economic efficiency skyrockets as nations specialize (lower opportunity costs)
  • More affordable consumer goods
  • Expanded consumer choice and diversity
  • Lower costs of production – strengthens U.S. firms
  • Job creation (exports, international investment, more consumer spending)
  • Trade surplus or Capital surplus
  • Technological innovation and economic development

(1) Pro never responded that economists almost all agree that free trade is beneficial
(2) Pro never responded that free trade tends to foster peace and democracy

Trade allows firms to shop around for inputs, which allows production to expand and prices to fall. National economies can thrive as they can specialize where they have a comparative advantage (where they have a niche), and the benefits of efficiency and dramatically larger markets ripple throughout the country.

The majority of U.S. imports are inputs that are later used in the production cycle. Therefore, if we restrict trade, we will without doubt raise the costs for U.S. producers, which will cut into profits, cut back on production, and reduce jobs in the United States, as well as effectively raising taxes on the average American by about $2,000.

The United States is the best place in the world to do business. We have the most to gain from trade. About 95% of the world’s consumers live outside our borders, if we close off or shut down our borders, we will suffer from more expensive goods, weaker U.S. firms, reduced aggregate supply, less consumer choice, and other consequences.

Sources (unsourced facts were referenced in previous rounds)





[5] The 0.5% reduction would mean about $448 less in income for the average worker. The $2,000 in savings offsets this by roughly a factor of 5.


Debate Round No. 4
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by Death23 2 years ago
OK both Pro and Con are in agreement that the resolution is "tied to the United States." I will operate under that assumption when working it up.
Posted by IndependentTruth 2 years ago
Yeah it was more tied to the United States than anywhere else.
Posted by Contra 2 years ago
I wasn't the instigator, but I'm pretty sure the resolution was tied to the United States, which is why it fell into the category of politics instead of general economics. Pro can correct me if I am wrong.
Posted by Death23 2 years ago
OK well absent any stipulations I'm going to use the debate title as the resolution since there's no indication of a different resolution until after the acceptance round.
Posted by Death23 2 years ago
Query: What is the resolution?

Is it this: "Free trade agreements are more harmful than helpful" ?

Or is it this: "Free trade agreements are more harmful than helpful [for America]" ?

Or is it something else? Any stipulations about this? I generally work around the resolution when I vote.
Posted by qwertyytrewq01943 2 years ago
This debate can have multiple view points. Is it more helpful or harmful? Well it depends to whom. To businesses who want to outsource work it is very helpful because it cuts down on their expenditures, meaning they can create cheaper products, making the products more affordable, but it is obviously not helpful to the people who are unemployed in the US as a result.
Posted by ResponsiblyIrresponsible 2 years ago
I'll be watching this.

I also love how I wrote an extensive post the other day attacking one of these very arguments!
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by 1Historygenius 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: I do not think Pro adequately refuted Con's argument on how free trade increases prosperity. He tries to note that it hurts wages, but the flow of capital into the United States from free trade is what pays them. Con proved NAFTA increased wages directly anyway. Con made a good argument on how American investors move to meet foreign demand. I found these arguments more resounding and they are proven. The problem with Pro's argument is that his case was never proven enough to hurt a country. Capital is flowing in and that causes increased wages and job creation. No problem.