Ah free trade…
Anyone who knows any economic theory understands that free trade has a lot of pros AND cons.
In theory, the main advantage of free trade is that it promotes the creation of wealth. This is certainly true; in fact, free trade has been spectacularly successful in creating wealth.
I know economics theory and understand that free trade has a lot of pros. What about the cons?
If both countries have the same industry, free trade tends to promote the “more efficient” industry in one country and destroy the “less efficient” industry in the other country. If I remember correctly, this was recognised when NAFTA was being negotiated, and the politicians promised to compensate people in the industries that NAFTA destroyed. This promise was not kept, and the fact that the free trade usually destroys industries is never mentioned these days.
Free trade means that countries have the industries that reflect their comparative advantage. That means that in a country, it's industries may move to other types. This is not "destruction of industries" in a way that needs to be compensated.
Since it also makes the global economy more competitive, it also helps to weed out inefficient companies.
One of the problems with free trade is that countries will take extreme measures to protect the industries that free trade would normally destroy.
Will they? Do they take more extreme measures than they do anyway? Why do you blame free trade for making government decision making worse? Blame government stupidity for government stupidity, not free trade.
People in this thread have been talking about the softwood lumber dispute between the US and Canada, so this may be a good example. If (and this is disputed) Canadian lumber companies have a natural advantage because Canada has a plentiful supply of lumber compared to the US, one would expect that free trade would promote Canadian lumber companies at the expense of US companies. In this case, the dispute was never settled. The US decided to tariff Canadian lumber and to close all discussion.
This is a problem of lack of free trade.
An example of the difficulty of settling trade disputes is hog farms. The US claimed that Canadian hog farmers were subsidised. It was true that the Canadian hog farmers were getting direct subsidies, but the US hog farmers were getting subsidised food for their hogs. The US took this to the NAFTA dispute process. They went through ALL levels of this process and finally ignored the result.
It's difficult to settle free trade disputes; that doesn't mean free trade isn't good.
In my opinion, while free trade has mostly been a success, only a small part of the population is getting the benefits of free trade, while a much larger part of the population is affected by the down side of free trade.
What is the down side of free trade?