They've just completed their opening statements. Here's Fletcher's.
Free trade is gradually bleeding America’s economy to death, and the much-promoted myth that economics vindicates it does not survive serious scrutiny.
To debate this issue without bogging down in semantics, we need to make a few things clear at the outset. For a start, the phrase “free trade” has two meanings, which are often confused:
1) The purely theoretical concept of perfectly free trade as analyzed in economics text-books.
2) The current free trade policy of the U.S. This is about 99%, not 100%, free on America’s part, and much less so on the part of our major trading partners.
Americans are better off today because of our greater freedom to trade and work with people around the world. Our growing engagement in the world economy has delivered real benefits to Main Street Americans.
Competition from trade has blessed American families with lower prices, more choice, and better quality when we spend our paychecks. Because of trade, consumers pay lower prices for food, clothing, shoes, electronics, and cars, which translate directly into higher real incomes. The cars we drive today are safer and more fuel efficient because of import competition. The bargains that trade has delivered have done more to help struggling families make ends meet than any “stimulus” bill from Washington.
The debate continues on the 2nd of March.