This is the time of the year where we reflect on what we’re thankful for, and there’s plenty, including a roaring stock market, low unemployment, and a good chance to pass tax reform.
Trade, and the jobs and opportunity it provides, is also something to be thankful for. Twenty-nine years ago just before Thanksgiving in one of his radio addresses, President Ronald Reagan reminded us to be thankful for the economic prosperity [video] trade has generated for American workers, families, and businesses:
Here in America, as we reflect on the many things we have to be grateful for, we should take a moment to recognize that one of the key factors behind our nation's great prosperity is the open trade policy that allows the American people to freely exchange goods and services with free people around the world. The freedom to trade is not a new issue for America. In 1776 our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, charging the British with a number of offenses, among them, and I quote, "cutting off our trade with all parts of the world," end quote.
And that same year, a Scottish economist named Adam Smith launched another revolution with a book entitled "The Wealth of Nations," which exposed for all time the folly of protectionism. Over the past 200 years, not only has the argument against tariffs and trade barriers won nearly universal agreement among economists but it has also proven itself in the real world, where we have seen free-trading nations prosper while protectionist countries fall behind.
Then President Reagan offered this keen insight about the martial rhetoric some political leaders use when talking about trade:
Part of the difficulty in accepting the good news about trade is in our words. We too often talk about trade while using the vocabulary of war. In war, for one side to win, the other must lose. But commerce is not warfare. Trade is an economic alliance that benefits both countries. There are no losers, only winners. And trade helps strengthen the free world.
Our peaceful trading partners are not our enemies; they are our allies. We should beware of the demagogs who are ready to declare a trade war against our friends—weakening our economy, our national security, and the entire free world—all while cynically waving the American flag. The expansion of the international economy is not a foreign invasion; it is an American triumph, one we worked hard to achieve, and something central to our vision of a peaceful and prosperous world of freedom.
Whether it’s with Canada, Mexico, China, or other countries, trade offers opportunities for American businesses to sell to more customers, helps create good-paying jobs for American workers, and brings a cornucopia of products and services to American families.
“Back in 1776, our Founding Fathers believed that free trade was worth fighting for,” President Reagan said. It’s still worth fighting for in 2017.