Trade, development and sustainability: A critical assessment of the "free trade dogma"

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Mainstream economic theory argues that trade, and especially free trade, is beneficial to everyone involved. This fundamental idea ? which has the character of a dogma ? still plays an important role in international discussions on trade issues, notably in relation to development and environment. The purpose of this article is to critically assess the "free trade dogma" and to investigate the validity of widely used arguments concerning the relations between trade and development and between trade and environment. It is argued that the trading system is not something inherently good, which should be defended in all cases. Especially, the developing countries' benefits from trade have been very dubious. Furthermore, the trading system has contributed to environmental problems in several ways, e.g. generating undervaluation of natural resources, stimulating economic growth with environmental deterioration as a consequence, and "magnifying" and creating externalities. The critical approach makes a case for reducing trade.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEcological Economics
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)13-22
Publication statusPublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes


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