Free Trade has certainly had some positive effects, e.g. the availability of cheap imported goods, but it has also had many adverse effects on Western society that will ultimately have a much more long term impact. Free Trade agreements devastated a lot of Western manufacturing and small businesses, which in turn left many smaller communities with no jobs or local economy.
The free trade agreement put into place by Bill Clinton in 1998 ultimately had a poor effect on the economy of the united states. We went from a first world economy, exporting goods and importing raw materials, to a third world structure of importing cheaply furnished goods and exporting raw materials.
The West had honorable motives when the Free Trade agreements were negotiated and signed in 1993. The rhetoric said free trade would open doors to countries we didn't currently sell goods to and it would increase the jobs in our country. The FTA would have the power to oversee the manufacture of goods in other countries thus providing safe and inexpensive imports to our country.
Businesses could move operations to locations that cost less to operate so businesses would make a profit.
If anyone had looked closely at the time they could have forseen the half truths these promises contained. If businesses move off shore, who will employ U.S. citizens?
These promises of increased production for our economy and lower prices for our citizens did not pan out.
Obviously countries poorer than ourselves did not have many citizens able to purchase our goods for well over the prices charged for goods in their own country.
If there was an increased market, we would have been exporting more goods and more jobs would have been created. In reality, the new market was here. We imported more and more inexpensive goods and we create less goods here in our own country, resulting in the loss of jobs for our citizens.
Exporting results in increased GDP and increased employed. Importing causes the opposite effect. Everyone focused on the results of exporting without considering the effects importing would have on our economy. We are over run with cheap goods and it is hard to find quality goods anywhere.
These policies were good for foreign economies and poorer nations. I respect that, but I regret free trade and the implementation of NAFTA for what it has done to the U.S. economy and our citizens.
In my opinion, free trade markets decrease the desirability of hiring within the nation when you can outsource for much cheaper. This leads to fewer jobs, an easier way to make a profit - sure, but it leaves more people unemployed and every person that is unemployed hurts the government. Free trade, in my opinion, is also a contributing factor to the boom and bust cycles of our economy.
Free trade results in winners and losers on an individual, corporate, and national level. If you are referring to the investor or management classes in the West, then they will not and do not regret free trade because it has made them tremendously wealthy. Most governments who are managing on less tax revenue and more demand for social services likely regret free trade. And most people who have seen their wages stagnate likely regret free trade. Though they probably do like the lower prices for things like clothes and cars, it is probably not enough of a compensation for the lower standard of living they likely have had suffered in the last few years.
No, I don't believe the West will ever regret free trade. There are detractors of free trade that by endorsing free trade and opening up our doors in the spirit of an international system, we have cheapened it by allowing things that should never happen, like cheap products which currently flood the market, and countries like China taking advantage of free trade. However, if these people look at the numbers, without free trade, our economy would actually be in worse shape than it is now, and free trade has done a lot of good not only for countries like China, but also for the United States.