Free Trade Activism in the Border Region

The selection of goods.

For YAL’s April Activism Event in late spring, the University of Texas-El Paso YAL chapter decided to take an economic approach and teach students about the benefits of free trade versus regulated trade. As there tends to be little disagreement between members of YAL and other students on the UTEP campus in the realm of social issues, we decided that a focus on economics was a better route.

The event coordinated by key officers, as well as alumni, and other miscellaneous volunteers, doubled as a fund-raising initiative for YAL. The idea of the event was to illustrate, in simple terms, what free trade between individuals and nations looks like as opposed to trade burdened by government sanctions and regulations.

The beauracrat of the Regulated Trade table.

Our team set up two tables, and arranged on them an assortment of candies and drinks to sell. One particular set of commodities, were specifically chosen as they are technically international as well as favorites in the border region. These were Mexican candies and Coca-Cola made with real sugar. 

The distinction between the two tables was in price and selection. There was a large variety of goods on the Free Trade table, while the Regulated Trade table, had considerably less. When the Regulated Trade table did have the international goods, they were 25 cents more expensive than on the Free Trade table.

All of the team members who made the event a success.

The disparity was orchestrated to prove how tariffs, governmental sanctions, and taxes eventually hurt the consumer and their ability to buy what they want for a better price. 

Another interesting element added to the event was the presence of a Black Market. One of our team members would mill around the Regulated Trade table with a plastic bag of contraband goods, and attempt to sell them to the consumers trying to purchase much more noticeably high priced goods.

Speakers of the economic freedom forum.

The next day, YAL hosted an Economic Freedom forum featuring an Economics professor from UTEP, a customs agent who works on the U.S. Mexico border, and an importer of wines. Among themselves, they discussed free trade, and the crippling effect on businesses and consumers certain regulations have as well as the more benevolent intentions behind certain regulations. About 20 people attended the forum, including some high school students. 

Overall, we feel our event was a success in promoting discussion and economic ideas to flow freely on the UTEP campus. While we weren’t particularly successful at recruiting new members, others were curious and interested in the message we were endorsing!

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