By GPF Staff
The first rule of studying international trade is that no single rule, statistic or equation is capable of adequately explaining either current or future trade patterns. Trade is too intricate and too variable, its shape naturally adjusting to conflict, politics, disruptive technologies and so on. This makes reliable data difficult to collect, and the presentation of trade data, like any statistic, can be manipulated to support almost any argument. Anecdotal evidence can complete the picture, or even paint a different one, and thus is just as important as what the numbers say. Ultimately, even the most elegant system of trade-related econometrics must judge itself not on the cleverness of its equations but on whether it describes reality accurately.
Despite the inherent difficulties of this work, the ability to precisely evaluate current and future global trade patterns is more important than ever. Protectionism is back in the news. In truth, protectionism never went