why if I’m travelling between countries that have a free trade agreement I’m still subject to restrictions at customs at airports.

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why if I’m travelling between countries that have a free trade agreement I’m still subject to restrictions at customs at airports.

In: Economics
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Free Trade agreements are there to facilitate trade and not to unduly differentiate between local and imported goods through import tariffs or quotas. This does not mean that there are no taxes – it just means locally produced and imported goods are treated “equally”.

If a country imposes a tax on, say, cigarettes (quite common) – bringing in cigarettes will still require local taxes to be paid. There are also restricted goods like medicine and drugs. A free trade agreement doesn’t mean the country will allow ALL goods to be imported.

One of the reasons for customs is to prevent stuff like invasive species of plants and animals from entering the country.

Most laws separate the transit of goods, and the transit of people.

Laws around goods are about product standards and taxes. If you have a free trade agreement, you’re agreeing to not raise tariffs on goods being brought in.

Laws around people are about immigration and crime, mostly. Most countries require a visa of some sort to visit, and a permit to remain and work. Only the Shengen area in Europe allows free movement of people for tourism and work.

Imagine in country A they decide to tax cigarettes. In country B they do not. Then, country A and B sign a free trade agreement. This is not fair – the purpose of the free trade agreement was to allow trade without penalties for being foreign goods, but now in country A there is a penalty for being a domestic cigarette. The solution is that all cigarettes get taxed in country A, whether you buy them in country A or B. The only way to do that is to tax them when they cross the border.

TL;DR – if there is a tax on something, there is a tax on it. Playing games with where you bought it does not change that.