The U.S State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs recently released new travel warnings for American citizens. Among these warnings, I found particularly striking that the Bureau found it wise to divert American citizens from going to places like Israel and Honduras. On one hand, it is understandable that these warnings be issued, given that Israel is located in an increasingly volatile geographical area, and that Honduras’ crime rates continue to be included amongst the highest in the world. On the other, I find it particularly inharmonious to discourage citizens (among which one may find numerous business owners and investors) from going to countries with whom the U.S has signed free trade agreements.
A key component of a fair free trade agreement is the unhindered transit of goods between signatory states. While procedural considerations could produce problems on the flow of goods between signatory countries, it is not an overt action by any one state to intentionally obstruct said flow. However, if any given signatory blatantly discourages its citizens from setting foot in another signatory country’s territory, this directly affects the degree to which the former’s citizens will be capable of moving goods, hence resulting in an infringement of the free trade principle.
At the time when Israel and Honduras’ free trade agreements were signed, their individual and regional security situations were not so different than they are now, which should have informed American decision-makers’ policy surrounding the establishment of free trade regimes with these countries. If security concerns alone were sufficient enough reasons to discourage American citizens from traveling to these countries in 2013, it begs the question of why were security issues not accounted for at the time of conceiving ideas of free trade with them?
The security situation in both these examples is doubtlessly worrisome, and it would be most unwise to underestimate this reality. It is however deplorable that the flow of products from the U.S to countries such as Israel and Honduras under a free trade framework is hindered by the prevalence of crime, terrorism and violence in general.