Woods vs Bhagwati: Freer vs fairer trade

Earlier this month, Oxford’s Ngaire Woods and Columbia’s Jagdish Bhagwati debated the merits of free trade versus fair trade at the Economist. Aaditya Mattoo, Simon Evenett, Kevin Watkins, and Thea Mei Lee also contributed along the way. The motion: “This house believes that making trade fairer is more important than making it freer.”

I think the debate suffered from a proliferation of competing definitions of fairness, a problem noted by Evenett that is inherent to the topic. Such online debates usually produce more questions than conclusions, which makes them useful introductions to an area of inquiry.  This debate might be a good means of motivating an undergraduate class discussion of international trade and global governance.

[Hat tip: Eagleton-Pierce.]