WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2016 - With the Trans-Pacific Partnership dead or on life support and the future of trade policy in doubt under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, two former top trade negotiators are calling for efforts to change the prevailing notion that global trade is a drag on the U.S. economy.
“We’ve got to begin to talk about trade in a way that
American people can relate to,” says Mickey Kantor, a Los Angeles lawyer who
was U.S. Trade Representative (
Although U.S. manufacturing employment continues to decline, she said, manufacturing output continues to increase, says Schwab, now a University of Maryland professor of public policy. “Many of those jobs are being performed by robots. Globalization may have accelerated structural change, but it has not changed the rules of comparative advantage,” she says.
Schwab cites agriculture as an example. While the number of people employed on farms has declined to less than 3 percent of the population, she says, “no one argues that trade agreements have hurt agriculture. The agricultural economy benefits tremendously from trade agreements. We have made big gains in agriculture, yet employment has gone down” through technology.
Kantor noted that every president since 1934 has supported rules-based trade, Still, he said, “We go to the Congress today, chiefly in my party (and) we find people who are skeptical, even openly hostile.”
California would be the biggest winner from
Most of the data and arguments used by opponents of trade agreements are not correct, Kantor says. “But we don’t have counter-pressure going on.” The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was approved by Congress with the support of 104 Democrats, in part because of strong advocacy from agriculture and the business community.
Both speakers expressed uncertainty about how trade policy
would play out in a Trump administration. “I don't know what's going to happen
to trade policy,” Kantor says. “None of us do. But we need to be hopeful. We
can’t be downbeat.” The advice Schwab would give to the Trump transition team:
“Take care of the career staff” at
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