The concept of free trade is the opposite of trade protectionism or economic isolationism. The derogation from the customs union was intended in part to take account of the creation of the European Economic Community (EC) in 1958. The EC, originally made up of six European countries, is now known as the European Union (EU) and has 27 European countries. The EU has gone beyond simply removing barriers to trade between Member States and creating a customs union. It has moved towards greater economic integration by becoming a common market – a regulation that removes barriers to mobility from factors of production such as capital and labour between participating countries. As a common market, the EU also coordinates and harmonizes each country`s tax, industrial and agricultural policies. In addition, many EU Member States have created a single currency area by replacing their national currencies with the euro. In principle, free trade at the international level is no different from trade between neighbours, cities or states. However, it allows companies in each country to focus on the production and sale of goods that make the best use of their resources, while others import goods that are scarce or unavailable domesticly. This mix of local production and foreign trade allows economies to grow faster and, at the same time, better meet the needs of their consumers. In most modern economies, there are many possible coalitions of interested groups and the diversity of possible unilateral barriers is important.
In addition, some trade barriers are created for other non-economic reasons, such as national security or the desire to protect or isolate local culture from foreign influences. It is therefore not surprising that successful trade agreements are very complicated. Some commonalities of trade agreements are (1) reciprocity, (2) a clause of the most favoured nation (MFN) and (3) the use of non-tariff barriers. The Doha Round would have been the world`s largest trade agreement if the United States and the EU had agreed on a reduction in their agricultural subsidies. As a result of its failure, China has gained ground on the world`s economic front through cost-effective bilateral agreements with countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. These occur when one country imposes trade restrictions and no other country responds. A country can also unilaterally relax trade restrictions, but this rarely happens. This would penalize the country with a competitive disadvantage. The United States and other developed countries do so only as a kind of foreign aid to help emerging countries strengthen strategic industries that are too small to be a threat.
It helps the emerging market economy grow and creates new markets for U.S. exporters. For example, a nation could allow free trade with another nation, with exceptions prohibiting the importation of certain drugs that are not authorized by its regulators, or animals that have not been vaccinated or processed foods that do not meet their standards. The GATT also allows free trade zones such as the European Free Trade Area, which consists mainly of Scandinavian countries. Members of free trade agreements remove tariffs on trade with each other, while maintaining autonomy in setting tariffs with non-members. There are currently a number of free trade agreements in the United States. These include multi-nation agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which includes the United States, Canada and Mexico, and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which includes most Central American nations. There are also separate trade agreements with nations, from Australia to Peru. One of the challenges of the WTO system has been the maintenance and expansion of the liberal global trading system in recent years.