Free trade has been an essential part of the capitalist system since Adam Smith decided so.  It promotes the unrestricted exchange of goods and services across borders, fostering economic growth, innovation, and international cooperation. While free trade brings numerous benefits, it also encounters hindrances that necessitate careful consideration and strategic solutions. Free trade fosters economic growth by allowing countries to specialize in the production of goods and services in which they have a comparative advantage. This specialization leads to increased efficiency, as resources are allocated more effectively, ultimately boosting overall productivity and output. It also encourages competition, allowing for innovation and lower prices competing for a greater consumer base as the increased competition and efficiency leads to reduced production costs. However, this being said, these lower production costs come with the unfortunate abuse of laborers, often women and children. Searching for the lowest production costs means adverse working conditions and dehumanization of those doing the work itself. This is what Marx despised: the othering to the point of objectifying the necessary members of industrialism.  Often, these industrial powerhouses prey on developing countries desperate for economic stability, and therefore, willing to sacrifice workers’ rights in order to avoid the alienation larger powers are capable of creating. Free trade can exacerbate income inequality within these developing nations. It enables industrialization on a global scale, rather than the domestic refusal of labor laws, the oppression continues elsewhere, completely unmonitored and evasive of possible rebellion and domestic backlash.

Environmentally, free trade often bleeds into unregulated trade, as the search for the cheapest labor and production cost often means unethical processes. The pursuit of profit may lead to overexploitation of natural resources, pollution, and other ecological challenges. The debate over the benefits of long term free trade has grown over the past few years. Globalization has become a controversial issue at the forefront of public policy. NAFTA  reduced or eliminated many tariffs between the three countries. NAFTA was the first multilateral trade agreement that linked sustainable development with trade. As NAFTA is one of the first trade agreements to include environmental commitments, this means it wasn’t perfect. For example, it gives the United States greater power than the hegemon already possessed, allowing for greater industrialism by fossil fuels and a worse environment. Because of this opening of trade borders, there is greater transportation which means greater gas usage that emits a lot of greenhouse gases. Unregulated free trade contributes to the overexploitation of natural resources, as countries want to maximize their advantages. This leads to deforestation, habitat destruction, and depletion of biodiversity. There is also a lack of environmental law. Similar to international law, there isn’t really a great way to enforce it. There is of course an ethical argument, but that doesn’t mean it will be heard, or that it won’t be shouted down by selfish industrial voices.

Personally, I do like free trade, economically, you can’t beat it, but environmentally, the current system is not sustainable. There is a greater emphasis on economic interest than on climate progressiveness which enables this lack of accountability that has kept any true environmental progress from being made.