This comprehensive study measures the net effects of imports on the U.S. economy. These effects are many, including jobs and U.S. manufacturing competitiveness — two factors commonly and erroneously thought to be harmed by imports — as well as the long-acknowledged positive effects of imports on inflation and wider product choices for American families. We find that:
- Imports improve American families’ standard of living. They help families make ends meet by ensuring a wide selection of budget-friendly goods, like electronics we use to communicate and many clothes and shoes we wear, and improve the year-round supply of such staples as fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Imports support more than 16 million American jobs. A large number of these import-related jobs are union jobs, held by minorities and women, and are located across the United States.
- More than half the firms involved in direct importing are small businesses, employing fewer than 50 workers.
- American manufacturers and farmers rely on imports including raw materials and intermediate goods to lower their production costs and stay competitive in domestic and international markets. Factories and farms purchase more than 60 percent of U.S. imports.
- Imports generate exports. The United States is integrated into an international supply chain that means that even U.S. imports contain U.S. exports – R&D, design, and inputs that were exported for further manufacture abroad.
- U.S. policy makers can increase the benefits of imports to American families, workers, farmers and manufacturers. Many U.S. trade policies and practices limit the benefits of imports to the U.S. economy. Addressing these policies and practices would give families more dollars in their household budgets, lower the costs borne by U.S. farmers and manufacturers, and, as a result of both outcomes, increasing American jobs.