On February 8, the government will release data for 2012 imports and exports. This annual release often ignites a debate about trade policy. But among economists, there’s not much debate over the benefits of free trade.

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business regularly surveys economic experts. Last year, in response to several questions about trade policy, economists agreed on the following points:

  • Free trade benefits the United States;
  • The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been good for the United States;
  • Even though some industries have been harmed by trade with China, most Americans are better off; and
  • Despite allegations from lobbyists for the sugar industry that the United States has a “no-cost sugar policy,” trade barriers make Americans pay more for sugar.

Here are the details. The responses are weighted by each expert’s confidence in their answer:

There is plenty of evidence to back up the economic consensus in support of free trade. For example, the recently released 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, published by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, shows that countries with low trade barriers are much more prosperous than those that restrict imports.

President Harry Truman once asked for a one-handed economist: “All my economists say, ‘on the one hand…on the other.’” But when it comes to trade policy, there is no ambivalence among economists. Our elected officials should take their advice and work to expand free trade.