Tired Trade Tirades

By February 25, 2008Trade

Sigh. What a discouraging weekend of bombast on trade from the Democratic candidates for president, who are more vociferously than ever blaming NAFTA for lost manufacturing jobs. The Washington Post does an analysis piece noting that Sen. Hillary Clinton is sounding more and more like John Edwards pitching the populism. Clinton and Obama take turns exceeding one another’s trade bashing.

Their argument is fundamentally a post hoc one: Manufacturing employment has declined, that decline followed enactment of NAFTA, and therefore NAFTA is to blame. But as Dan Griswold of Cato reminds us in this Reuters story, the decline since 2000 is largely the result of the early-decade recession and increased productivity; we can manufacture more products today with fewer people.

So we blame microchips. We must take a time out on microchips.

The anti-trade rhetoric suggests a desire to return to an era of simpler, more labor-intensive machinery, perhaps the 1950s. Trouble is, none of our global competitors would follow suit. The anti-trade policies now popular in the primaries mean the United States just surrenders in the world of competition, innovation and economic dynamism, a formula for long-term stagnation and decline.

BTW, according to U.S. Department of Commerce figures for 2005, Ohio has 308,000 jobs related to exports.

And the Cincinnati metropolitan area exported $12.7 billion worth of goods in 2006, while the Cleveland metro area exported $8.3 billion.

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