Smart Power
November 23, 2015

Commercial Ties Foster Peaceful Relations

By Andrea Durkin

It was right then and it’s right now.

In the period between world wars, tariff escalation and trade discrimination destabilized the global economy.  U.S. policymakers drew important lessons from this experience and pursued economic cooperation as the best way to achieve economic stability, prosperity and peace in the post-World War II era.

The global trading system was established “to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity.”  The drafters of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade set an intention to rebuild the nations defeated in World War II. Today Germany and Japan are among our strongest trading partners.

This month WTO Members completed negotiations on the terms of Afghanistan’s accession to the WTO with a formal decision to be made at the Tenth WTO Ministerial Conference next month in Kenya.  This is not symbolic; it puts Afghanistan on the path from poverty and oppression toward a modern economy built on economic freedom. Is it inconceivable to think of Afghanistan as an important future trading partner?

A few against millions.

The brutal killing spree in Paris of innocent civilians makes clear that our personal, national and global security are under assault from the threat of terrorism. Tensions burn slow over the freedom to navigate waterways vital to global commerce. Less obvious but insidious are destabilizing economic policies such as export bans on essential food which can cause price spikes that feed social discontent.

U.S. trade policy projects the core American values of democracy and the liberty to enjoy the fruits of individual economic freedom and free markets.  At its most basic, the more than $23 trillion in global trade in goods and services is comprised of millions of individual good faith transactions among people around the globe.  In this way, trade allows us to engage our fellow man, spread prosperity and economic stability, and promote peaceable relations among nations.

We cannot hope to end terrorism through trade, but we can generate opportunities for individual economic engagement. What is trade if not personal diplomacy through commerce?

One of the aims of terrorists is to cause economic and financial damage, to disrupt a way of life.  A handful of individuals carried out the attacks in Paris.  By engaging in peaceful trade, millions of us will do our part to counter the scourge of terrorism borne of extremism and violence.