2021 Index of Economic Freedom: After Three Years of Worsening Trade Freedom, Countries Should Recommit to Lowering Barriers



Tori Smith | The Heritage Foundation

Global trade freedom has fallen for the third straight year in the 2021 Index of Economic Freedom and is at its lowest level since 2006. Higher tariffs and more nontariff barriers have made trade more difficult and costly for individuals and businesses worldwide. For more than 25 years, the Index has shown that individuals in countries with higher levels of trade freedom are more prosperous and often have much higher incomes, greater food security, healthier environments, and increased political stability. To improve their trade freedom scores and the lives of their citizens, countries should seek to eliminate tariffs and nontariff barriers, enter into new free trade agreements, and remain dedicated to their World Trade Organization commitments.


1.Global trade freedom has fallen for the third straight year and is at its lowest level since 2006 according to the Index of Economic Freedom.

2.Without a free trade leader, individuals and businesses are facing more difficult and costly barriers worldwide.

3.Countries should seek to increase their trade freedom by eliminating tariffs and nontariff barriers.


Tori K. Smith is the Jay Van Andel Trade Economist Heritage’s Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies. She provides the conservative true north on free trade through her research and writing.

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