'Fair and Free' Trade: The Demands of a New Era for Trade Liberalisation

Alasdair attended the OECD forum. He is in his fifth year of Economics and Law at Queensland University of Technology and is majoring in Applied Economics.


In recent years, a newfound political narrative challenging trade liberalisation has emerged. Driven largely by the disenfranchised middle-class, this narrative calls for a return to protectionism, or for greater substantive fairness in the outcomes of liberalisation. This paper analyses this trend, and examines whether the loss of confidence in ‘business-as-usual’ trade liberalisation is justified. An examination of political rhetoric and positions is firstly undertaken to assess the nature of the repudiation of liberalisation. The validity of this perspective is assessed with respect to trade theory and empirical evidence, and the findings show that these concerns are justified to an extent. In light of this, it is recommended that political rhetoric be updated to match the observed outcomes of liberalisation, and that policy actions should be focused on increasing the equity of engaging in trade, so as to address the issue without sacrificing its benefits.

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