Aug 08, 2016 - 9:00am

Retreating on Trade Will Harm Our Country

Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

With the general election now in full swing, we can expect the rhetoric to continue to escalate on the campaign trail. But there’s no excuse for what we’re hearing on trade. Both of the major party nominees have thrown caution—and facts—to the wind. And their running mates have walked back their previously strong pro-trade positions. Trade opposition may be politically convenient in this campaign, but it’s bad policy for our country.

In opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Hillary Clinton could end 70 years of bipartisan progress toward freer trade. She has said that she will only support new trade pacts “if they will create good jobs, raise wages, and advance our national security.”

A host of studies show that TPP will indeed achieve those goals. Researchers with the Peterson Institute for International Economics estimate that TPP will increase annual real incomes in the United States by $131 billion. They also expect around 650,000 more people to work in export-related jobs (and fewer in lower wage jobs) because of TPP. And national security? Just ask Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who has compared TPP with having an extra aircraft carrier in the Asia-Pacific region.

As for Donald Trump, not only does he call TPP “the biggest betrayal in a long line of betrayals where politicians have sold out U.S. workers,” he has threatened in almost every speech to withdraw from NAFTA, recently adding a potential withdrawal from the World Trade Organization to this pledge. This would permit the United States to carry out his threat to slap tariffs of 15% to 45% on imports from China, Mexico, and Japan. Several nonpartisan research organizations have warned that these tariffs would cause the loss of up to 4 million American jobs and impose a regressive consumption tax on the typical American family of more than $2,000 annually.

There are some problems with TPP, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is working with leaders in Congress to fix them so that the deal can ultimately be approved. More broadly, there are some downsides with trade. They should be addressed too. We should redouble our efforts to ensure that those who are negatively impacted by trade, productivity, and technology get the training and support they need to find good paying jobs. Let’s not forget that trade remains a net winner for our country, and we can’t turn away from it. 

The Chamber urges the candidates for president to look past Election Day and consider the long-term ramifications of turning inward in a global economy. Retreating on trade will undermine U.S. economic growth, endanger American jobs, and harm our global leadership.

About the Author

About the Author

Thomas J. Donohue
Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Thomas J. Donohue is chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.