Myron Brilliant
Former Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


January 15, 2021


The United States faces a choice—to reach out and seize the benefits of international engagement, or retreat into isolationism. This choice is central to the competitiveness of the U.S. economy and the hopes of hardworking citizens pursuing the American Dream.

The United States is home to one of the most prosperous societies in history. Most Americans appreciate the benefits of engagement, but some question this openness, wondering whether the unfettered flow of goods, services, investment, people, and ideas helps or hurts the average family. While some are hurt—and should be helped—the facts will show that the overwhelming majority of Americans derive great benefits from international engagement.

Today, more than 40 million American jobs depend on trade. Ninety-eight percent of America’s exporters are small businesses, not large, multinational corporations.

Indeed, outside our borders are markets that represent 80% of the world’s purchasing power, 92% of its economic growth, and 95% of its consumers. The resulting opportunities are immense.

Imports help Americans too. They mean lower prices for American families as they try to stretch their budgets—and for companies seeking raw materials and other inputs. Access to imports boosts the purchasing power of the average American household by $18,000 annually.

Foreign companies have long invested in the U.S. marketplace because our markets are safe and profitable. Foreign companies directly employ nearly 8 million Americans.

U.S. investment overseas benefits Americans as well. Sales by majority-owned foreign affiliates of U.S. companies approached $7 trillion in 2018—a sum representing nearly one-third of U.S. multinational corporations’ total sales. Above and beyond exports, these sales generate profits and create jobs back home.

The benefits of international engagement extend far beyond the movement of goods, services, and people. Global engagement has also improved the state of the world, promoting peaceful exchange and lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty through more open markets and trade-generated growth.

Despite these facts, international engagement is under attack. It is important to understand why, to respond to such attacks, and to enact the positive reforms Americans need to win and prosper in the worldwide economy.

Without question, the competitive environment facing our workers and businesses is challenging. Many nations have followed our lead in reforming their economies, opening their markets, and investing in training and technology. Now they are competing with us for customers, capital, resources, and jobs—not only around the world but right here in our country.

In the face of this tough competition, we can choose to blame our competitors and attribute our own problems to the faults of others. We can retreat from the world and close our markets and borders in an effort to shield our workers and industries.

Or we can choose to remake ourselves and provide our people and businesses with the skills and tools they need to succeed. We can heed the lessons of history which suggest that no nation has ever remained prosperous by walling itself off. We can do a better job ensuring that the opportunities of global commerce are extended to all.

At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, our aim is to make the case for the United States to reach out and seize the benefits of international engagement for all of America’s workers, farmers, and companies.

We invite you to consider the facts, reflect on what’s at stake, and join us in a vigorous effort to knock down market barriers abroad, stay engaged in the world, and remove the impediments that make it harder for Americans to compete in the worldwide economy.

Explore more

About the authors

Myron Brilliant

Myron Brilliant is the former executive vice president and head of the International Affairs Division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.