When it comes to the real world, free trade is hardly what Adam Smith would have imagined it to be. There is, no doubt, truck and barter, but hardly of the kind that Smith saw between a brewer and a baker.
The European Union (EU) has flagged concerns such as child labour and environment just before the India-EU summit on Friday. The EU wants these concerns factored into a free trade agreement with India. This is, of course, a naked attempt at extracting concessions from India and has little to do with free trade. It has everything to do with protectionism. Such clauses are mercantilist, but are dressed as humane concerns and are handy in protecting one’s companies from competition.
Child labour has complex reasons. Unless those reasons are addressed, banning products and companies using such labour will not end child labour. It is also a function of India’s willingness to engage in dialogue that such issues are raised in the first place. Does the EU bother China with such concerns? Why do moral matters gain salience only when the EU deals with India?