Saturday, February 9, 2008

Free Trade is not very popular

"We are the champions - of the world" may be the verse that rings out in stadiums across the U.S., but in the great game of global trade, Americans are increasingly feeling like the losers. A large majority - 68% - of those surveyed in a new Fortune poll says America's trading partners are benefiting the most from free trade, not the U.S. That sense of victimhood is changing America's attitude about doing business with the world.

We are a nation crawling into a fetal position, cramped by fear that America has lost control of its destiny in a fiercely competitive global economy. The fear is mostly about jobs lost overseas and wages capped by foreign competition.

But it is also fueled by lead-painted toys from China and border-hopping workers from Mexico, by the housing and credit crisis at home, and by the residue of vulnerability left by 9/11 and the wars that followed. Americans were willing to experiment with open borders during the exuberant 1990s. Today that mood has darkened. We are turning inward. Especially now, as the U.S. economy sputters, we are on the verge of becoming a country of economic nationalists.

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