In Singapore EU-Commissioner Karel de Gucht explains the source of elitism in his domain and endorses the “open paradigm” of free trade:
As public policy specialists you will know as well as I do that economists often disagree on what caused the financial crisis, but they do see eye-to-eye on one point: that free trade makes the world better off. Yet, in spite of its benefits, trade is often an extremely contentious political issue, both domestically and between governments.
The British historian Thomas Macaulay was thinking of this paradox when he said that “Free trade, one of the greatest blessings which a government can confer on a people, is in almost every country unpopular.”
That was back in 1824, yet today it still rings true. Open markets are still under pressure; international competition is still seen as a source of unemployment and impoverishment; and trade in itself is still all too often seen as unfair. The challenge for us, policy makers, is therefore clear: at a time when trade is often seen as one of the things that got us into a crisis, we have to turn around this idea and support international trade to get out of it.
Still you may wonder if EU trade policy always adheres to Free Trade objectives. In the field of IPR, in particular geographical indications, common policies are incompatible with a classic Free Trade agenda. “Geographical indication” are an artificial barrier to trade. Essentially De Gucht’s teaching expresses a religious believe system with its dangerous sides. A holy grail of insider knowledge, the group of trade administration insiders knows what is best for our societies, a we and them, and they defend it facing less “progressive” public opinion and politicians.
There are many good arguments for Free Trade, arguments which still need to be made and scrutinized.