Because it is generally agreed upon that free trade improves aggregate wealth, opponents tend to be those who would personally suffer, such as business owners whose businesses would be unable to compete with foreign rivals. (Lars, 209) Ideally, under a free trade model, every person and every country would produce what they are best at producing and then use the money from the sale of their products to buy those products they are not skilled at making.
Many detractors focus on the harmful effects that free trade has on the environment, since free trade agreements allow companies in countries with lax environmental regulations and little financial incentive to reduce emissions or control waste to compete with American companies, which have to expend a great deal of money to meet environmental regulations. (Shaikh, 136) The result, critics say, is that foreign companies have an economic advantage over American companies, or that American companies will move their operations overseas to avoid compliance with U.S. regulations. (Odell, 34) A similar argument claims that trade with countries that have poor conditions for workers reinforces the legitimacy of those conditions. Supporters of free trade, however, claim that free trade is beneficial for the environment, since products are more likely to be produced in places where production is easier, and thus less harmful to the environment.
Proponents of free trade claim it is the most equitable trading practice, since foreign companies can compete on equal footing with domestic companies. Free trade allows companies to sell their products to consumers willing to pay the highest price, and allows consumers to buy from the company selling the highest quality product at the lowest price. (Graham, 68) Free trade advocates claim that the taxes and tariffs imposed on imported goods makes it doubly hard for foreign producers to compete: because of the cost of