Foundation Hosts Talk on Free Trade
|Mr. Barun Mitra with FNF Resident
Representative Siegfried Herzog
The recently concluded Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) co-sponsored
8th annual Economic Freedom
conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 12-13
September 2006 discussed the topic: "Preferential
Trade Agreements: Local Solutions for Global Free Trade?"
In response to bringing free market solutions to where it counts
most – at the local level, the FNF Philippine office, in
cooperation with the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF), hosted
a round table discussion with Liberty
founder and director, Mr. Barun S. Mitra on 6 October
2006 on "Free Trade and Property Rights."
Economists gathered at the Foundation’s office in Makati
City to discuss the cornerstone of the free market: people
engage in trade, not countries. “The state is not
an economic actor. It is a lawmaker and hence is not an agent
of the market,” said Mitra. He pointed out that when governments
negotiate on behalf of countries, they can easily be controlled
by vested interests. Trade discussions then become a game of political
maneuvering, market liberalization can be delayed and only small,
powerful groups benefit. It obscures the fact that trade
liberalization is good in itself, without depending on
others liberalizing at the same time. Therefore, Mr. Mitra argues,
unilateralism is the solution to the current vested interests
domination presented by a multilateral approach to free trade.
"Policy decisions should be made at home. Unilateralism forces
that. Whether the decision is to open or close your borders to
trade, it should be a domestic decision. It should
not be subverted by the state," he said.
Mr. Mitra pointed to the example of Hong Kong. Despite its small
size, in adopting a unilateral approach to free trade and protecting
its market institutions, it has a per capital income of $27,179.
Other Asian countries have also liberalized their trade without
waiting for others and have benefited markedly.
During the discussion, the issue of intellectual property rights
(IPR) was also debated extensively. Mr. Mitra pointed out that
a stricter IPR-regime induced Indian pharmaceutical
companies to build up their research capabilities,
and that Indian software and entertainment companies had become
great fans of IPR now that they are internationally competitive.
"We are grateful to have had this opportunity to learn from
and discuss with Barun Mitra, a noted intellectual and liberal
activist," said FNF Resident Representative Siegfried Herzog.
"We are happy that this meeting is also a great continuation
of our cooperation with FEF," he added. "We are looking
forward to more such meetings in the future."
For more insights into Barun Mitra's ideas on unilateralism,
click here. The original article appears in the Far
Eastern Econimic Review, December 2005.