Trade Free or Die

Nathan Amundson

In his upcoming term, the President-Elect, Donald Trumpmust revise his stance and support the free exchange of goods across international markets, unimpeded by trade barriers, more commonly known as free trade. Though trade agreements have long had their critics within both major parties – more so in the Democratic Party, given its union support – but consensus has favored expanded trade and lowered tariffs, ideas that have become the law of the land under Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama. As demonstrated by the rhetoric of thepresidential candidates this year, the tide is starting to turn against free trade.

Free Trade hurting the American worker and exacerbating income inequality are popular cultural memes this year and calls for limits on the practice have long been supported by labor unions and many of the blue-collar conservative “Reagan Democrats” employed in manufacturing largely in the Rust Belt. In many European countries, similar groups promote theexpansion of free trade, most prominently in nations such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, which Bernie Sanders describes as “socialist.” In Sweden, during a meeting with an American envoy, labor unions berated the Obama administration for not doing enough to advance free trade and not quickly enough negotiating thefree trade between the U.S. and the European Union.

Many people throughout the country believe that globalization and trade are the culprits behind a decline in manufacturing in America. According to figures from the Federal Government, World Bank, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and World Trade Organization, American manufacturing output is higher than it has ever been at any point in history and has been increasing steadily over the last 50 years. The culprit behind this is not globalization but automation and concentration of factories in the United States, which results in fewer workers being required to produce goods. As this accelerates because of computer advancement and new technology, more people are becoming disgruntled and blaming a policy they can point at rather than a gradual change in society.

Free trade is a net positive for all the parties involved as it allows citizens of rich nations to purchase items such as clothing and shoes at a lower price than they would be able to if the items were produced domestically, thereby increasing the buying power of their wages. Additionally, it allows poorer countries to produce those goods and gain more value from their labor than subsistence farming would allow, thereby enabling them to develop and attain a higher standard of living. Trade is a good thing: Don’t let the parties fool you.