OLD Media Moves

WaPo columnist confused about free trade

April 3, 2007

Posted by Chris Roush

Dean Baker, writing on his blog about economics reporting, argues that Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby is confused when writing about free trade.

Sebastian MallabyBaker wrote, “He criticizes the suggestion by my former boss, Lawrence Mishel, and Harvard economist Dani Rodrick, that it might be desirable to have a ‘strategic pause’ before we rush ahead with new trade agreements. Mishel and Rodrick argue that such a pause might be desirable because it would allow us to improve the safety net to ensure that the losers from trade are protected.

“Mr. Mallaby argues that the problem with such an approach is that other countries will continue to move ahead with trade deals, from which the United States will be excluded. Okay, what does trade theory say about this scenario? Well, according to most trade models, if other countries work out deals that make their economies stronger, while the U.S. is sitting on the sidelines, then the United States is better off than if they didn’t work out deals. In general, standard trade implies that the United States economy is helped by anything that helps the economies of our trading partners.

“In other words, if Mallaby understood his own religion better, he would know that he is actually weakening the argument against a ‘strategic pause.'”

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