With all the anti-APEC protests taking place in Sydney this week, it’s a pity that there isn’t something to give a bit of balance. After all, one of APEC’s greatest achievements is to get all developed members to commit to free trade by 2010, and developing members to commit to free trade by 2020. That’s completely free trade, mind – not some clubbish free-trade-with-my-friends-only arrangement. Whether countries actually reach the Bogor goals is another question, but I still think APEC deserves credit for being the venue through which they committed to it. Understanding why living standards in Asia have grown faster than in Latin America and Africa is a complex question, but most people think that lower tariffs have played a role.
That said, I wonder whether there will be any good pro-free trade protests in Sydney this week. I’m reminded of the economics PhD students who went to the World Trade Organisation meetings in Seattle in 1999 with chants of “Whaddawewant? Free Trade, Whendawewannit? Now.”
Update: The Liberty and Democracy Party are planning a pro-free trade event on 8 September. Details hereÂ (update here). Their blog is unnecessarily critical of the left, and I hope that onÂ the day they’ll welcome progressive free traders to their midst. After all, as someone once pointed out, it was Labor who implemented the three biggest tariff cuts in Australia’s historyÂ (1973, 1988 and 1991).