Nevada Free Trade Zone

Patrick Gibbons

Welcome to Unemployed Nevada

The Brookings Institution has an idea to save Las Vegas: increase exports. OK, but how? This is kind of like telling retailers that the secret to making money is to sell more stuff. Thanks, Captain Obvious.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal article mentions that the Brookings Institution and the University of Nevada, Reno are offering a business course (for 600 dollars) to help people improve their ability to export goods globally. International trade is rife with tariffs, quotas and other protectionist measures that stifle trade, destroy wealth and harm consumers. So a course on how to navigate the pitfalls of international trade is helpful, but not the best solution to rebuilding Nevada’s economy.

Here’s a better idea: free trade zones. The United States has hundreds of free trade zones which range in size from hot dog stands to a few city blocks. These, however, only benefit a handful of people. Embarrassingly, China – a communist dictatorship – has 15 free trade zones and a dozen special economic zones each inhabited by millions of Chinese people. These economic zones feature lower taxes and fewer regulations and are driven by the invisible hand of market forces (rather than the very visible backhand of big government). They make up just a fraction of the land mass and population of China, but the bulk of the nation’s economic growth.

So how would it work? All goods imported into the free trade zone would enter duty free. Everything. Zero percent tariffs. Nada.

Not only would this provide a major tax cut to consumers and visitors to Nevada, but industry in the Silver State would be able to produce goods and ship them abroad (or even to the rest of the U.S.) at a lower cost and thus a more competitive price. In Nevada, consumers and producers would win – unlike under most government policies, where a handful of powerful and well-connected special interests win at the expense of consumers and taxpayers alike.