Global Trade

Clear, consistent policies regarding global trade are essential to ensure protection of workers and effectively manage access to the world's markets.

Here we explore six essential questions at the heart of global trade. Don’t just read this brief; engage with it, providing feedback along the way. Your voice will shape the conversation, define the issues, and help the community drive meaningful change across our nation.

Where do we stand?

Global Trade in a connected world

Global trade has grown dramatically in recent decades – and the United States should take pride in the leadership role it plays in opening markets around the world. More nations participating and prospering from the global economy makes the world a better and safer place. However, what shouldn’t be celebrated are the huge trade deficits we continue to run year in and year out. Right now we rank 143rd out of 144 nations in reliance on imports.(WEF) There’s a healthy debate about how risky our situation is in the near term, but this degree of import/export misalignment isn’t sustainable indefinitely. It reflects the fact we’re living beyond our means and not making enough and selling enough around the world. It’s important to remember that our trade deficit is more symptom than root cause. It’s a reflection of a series of challenges that if successfully addressed would significantly improve the U.S. economy. They range from shortfalls in tax policy, investment in manufacturing, infrastructure, fair trade enforcement and our national savings rate. The bottom line – global trade is critical to long term American prosperity and we can and must do better.

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Where are we headed?

A glimpse at our future

Our trade deficits are somewhat off their all-time highs, but still dramatically bigger than they were in 1990 or even 2000. While we continue to run a surplus in services and our national energy boom is helping, the core risks we face remain in place. For example, we’ve ceded too much ground when it comes to making advanced, high tech products. Making things still matters in our modern world – and doing so creates high paying jobs. We’re still the world leader in generating ideas, but building them and bringing them to market is essential for our nation to thrive. We have lots of work to do to make this nation the most attractive place in the world for American and International companies to invest, locate, hire and grow. We also need to finish what we started related to opening markets and making sure intellectual property is respected world-wide. No other nation can play this vital role however due to political infighting we’ve too often relinquished leadership in recent years. This leadership vacuum has allowed nations like China to more successfully assert their vision for global relations. We have the chance to get this right for the benefit of all our trading partners – and at the same time score a big win for the U.S. economy.

See William Krist explain the implications of trade policies

What's at stake?

Bringing jobs back home

95% of the world’s customers and 80% of total purchasing power is overseas. A “Fortress America” approach to the economy just isn’t viable – and never has been. Our future prosperity is inexorably tied to the degree we can tap into the global markets. Already 38 million Americans are in jobs related to international trade – that’s one in every five. This number must grow – in fact increasing our role in the international economy is the key to ensuring future generations have the economic opportunities they deserve. Our future prosperity depends on leveling the playing field for U.S. businesses and making sure we reestablish leadership in delivering the high value added products and services the world needs. This isn’t just the path to job growth, but what will foster the higher paying, exciting careers our citizens need to realize the American Dream. If we get this right it won’t trigger the “race to the bottom” in earnings and working conditions that many understandably fear, but to a better and more stable world.

What's holding up progress?

We face two fundamental challenges to progress on trade. First, our ability and commitment to making American trade competitiveness a top national priority. Our governance process has been fine-tuned to address the narrow interests of large and well-funded special interests – which makes it hard to take on the big issues like tax policy, education and infrastructure that are holding us back. This process has also resulted in a highly complex and bureaucratic business environment that hampers and can even derail small to medium sized firms seeking to expand abroad. Breaking out of this cycle won’t be easy, but is possible with a broad based and passionate coalition. This coalition must bring together the business sector, the public sector and mainstream citizens and forge a comprehensive, strategic approach to U.S. trade policy. Second, opening up global markets isn’t something that can be done unilaterally and often requires years of negotiation. Here patience paired with resolve is essential – as is leading by example. Right now our politicized approach to global trade isn’t giving us the high ground and moral authority to drive further reform and liberalization. Too often we come across as a house divided against itself which undermines our credibility abroad and makes securing investment in the U.S. a tougher sell.

Follow the link images below for a variety of perspectives on Global Trade.

What are the core
issues & challenges?

A multifaceted approach to reform

  • Economic Foundations
  • Attract Global Players
  • Small & Medium Firms
  • Open Global Markets
  • Level Playing Field
  • The same core capabilities and resources that foster economic efficiency and effectiveness at home will serve us competing around the world. These include good schools, solid infrastructure and skilled workers.
  • While the items in #1 above are the cornerstones, we can also make sure that America is more competitive vis-a-vis tax policy, capital access and streamlined regulation
  • These dynamic players aren’t looking for a hand out, but could really benefit from a hand up now and then. Today they’re facing the same complexities large companies experience, but without the resources to navigate them. These smaller firms are our engines for innovation and job creation and we need to streamline their access to global markets.
  • Lots of progress has been made in lowering barriers to trade around the world, but much more needs to be done. Major treaties are being pursued right now with the European Union and the 12 Asian Trading Partners covered by the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They constitute major opportunities, but must be realized in a way that’s an authentic win for workers and corporations. If they are – they should prove springboards to further progress.
  • Reaching agreements is one thing – making sure they are honored in letter and spirit is quite another. Progress has been made, but some of our trading partners continue to game the system and thereby hurt American businesses and workers. On issues ranging from currency manipulation to intellectual property protection to industry subsidies we need to stand our ground more firmly.

How can you help move
the nation forward?

A call to every American

Without your help and the support of citizens like you we’ll never move far enough or fast enough on global trade. What can you do today to help?

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