Free trade

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Free trade is a system of trade policy that allows traders to act and or transact without interference from government. According to the law of comparative advantage the policy permits trading partners mutual gains from trade of goods and services.

Under a free trade policy, prices are a reflection of true supply and demand, and are the sole determinant of resource allocation. Free trade differs from other forms of trade policy where the allocation of goods and services among trading countries are determined by artificial prices that may or may not reflect the true nature of supply and demand. These artificial prices are the result of protectionist trade policies, whereby governments intervene in the market through price adjustments and supply restrictions. Such government interventions can increase as well as decrease the cost of goods and services to both consumers and producers.

Interventions include subsidies, taxes and tariffs, non-tariff barriers, such as regulatory legislation and quotas, and even inter-government managed trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) (contrary to their formal titles) and any governmental market intervention resulting in artificial prices.

Most states conduct trade policies that are to a lesser or greater degree protectionist.[1] One ubiquitous protectionist policy employed by states comes in the form of agricultural subsidies whereby countries attempt to protect their agricultural industries from outside competition by creating artificial low prices for their agricultural goods.[2]

Free trade agreements are a key element of customs unions and free trade areas. The details and differences of these agreements are covered in their respective articles.

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