There is an enormous gap between free trade as it is taught in textbooks and advocated by those who benefit from it and free trade as it is actually practiced in today's world. Textbooks still unabashedly teach the virtues of free trade, but their arguments assume a world of pure market forces.
Despite tremendous progress in poverty reduction over the last two decades, poverty still persists. Along with South Asia, Africa is a region where large numbers of people continue to live in extreme poverty.
There is no good reason -- regardless of what most economists say -- to assume that free trade is necessarily the best approach. The economic logic of those who say it is is riddled with enough holes to sink a container ship.
You can read about the free trade controversy for months and never hear about it. But in the minds of real economists, it's there all the time, and it's big. I'm talking about the so-called theory of comparative advantage.
Free trade works very well for investors, financial institutions, and large multinational companies. At the same time, our free trade agreements push aside interests of workers, communities and the environment.
Today's "free trade" is not only the last remnant of laissez-faire -- it is its least deserving remnant, full of wholesale foul play, deception, currency manipulation, predatory techniques, and other violations of its rules.