ICYMI: Human Beings, Not Governments, Trade — So Why Do Governments Make It Harder? 

Oct 1, 2018 by AFP

Chairman and Editor-In-Chief of Forbes Media Steve Forbes and Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips | Investors Business Daily


China doesn’t buy enough American cars. Canada doesn’t buy enough American dairy. Britain doesn’t buy enough American airplanes. You’ve been hearing this argument for years. But the passage of time hasn’t made it any more valid, because it’s based on a faulty premise.

Nations such as China, Canada and the U.K. don’t buy things from America. Individual Chinese, Canadian and British individuals and businesses buy things from Americans, and Americans buy from them. These are people and businesses making individual choices about what they want to buy and sell, and with whom.

No one was harmed by these voluntary transactions and the millions of people involved on both sides of the Atlantic got what they wanted.

The same holds true in your personal lives. How’s your own trade deficit with Amazon? Or Walmart? Or your local grocery story? Are they buying a lot of the stuff you produce? Probably not. But your relationships remain voluntary and mutually beneficial. You get the books and the clothes and the rutabagas you want, they get the cash. Everybody wins.

A Right To Free Trade

The tendency to think of trade in terms of surpluses and deficits obscures the more fundamental principle at issue — people have the right to voluntarily exchange goods and services with whomever they want, whenever they want. In a society based on equal rights and mutual benefit, the government should not be second-guessing these individual decisions made freely between two willing parties.

On a more practical level, we also see that unjustly restricting individuals from trade hasn’t worked; in fact, it has been counterproductive.

The Zero Tariff Option

…The best way to get to zero tariffs is to go to zero tariffs. We don’t need to wait for anyone else to act.

Getting our own house in order would help Americans by cutting costs and encouraging innovations  that improve lives…

Punishing Our Own

Forget China vs. America. This is our government vs. Americans.

The irony is that the president is erecting barriers to trade at the same time the economy is booming because he took the opposite approach in the rest of the economy. On taxes and regulations, he reduced barriers that hold people back and prevent them from realizing their potential. He helped get government out of our lives.

It doesn’t make much sense to lower barriers in some parts of the economy while raising them in others. A better approach would be to double down on the economic policies that are contributing to our booming economy and pursue policies that make it easier and less costly to trade.


Governments make trade deals, but people and businesses trade. Instead of erecting barriers that close us off from the world, governments should get out of the way so people succeed by helping each other prosper.

Read the full op-ed here.

Read our latest statement on NAFTA renegotiation here

For further information or to set up an interview, please send an email to GBraud@afphq.org.

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