By Kaye Foley
As long as there’s been free trade, people have been divided on the issue, and not always along party lines. But during this election season, two candidates who don’t see eye to eye on most issues in fact have similar positions on trade — Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
Free trade is an arrangement between countries in which restrictions on imports and exports — like tariffs and quotas — are lifted. This means that participating nations have better access to overseas markets.
The U.S. has been making these deals since the Franklin Roosevelt administration. Right now, America has implemented 14 agreements with 20 countries. The most commonly known is the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. President Clinton signed the deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada in 1993.
Last year, the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, reinvigorated the debate over free trade. The TPP involves the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations. Its future is unclear as it awaits congressional approval. For a refresher on TPP, check out our “Now I Get It” on the topic.
Most of the opposition to free trade comes from labor groups. They see the deals as job killers and harmful to the middle class. They believe it’s impossible to compete with cheap foreign labor, and that too many manufacturing jobs have gone overseas.
But proponents of free trade, and the majority of economists, argue that it’s more positive than negative for America and developing nations. The lower cost of consumer goods that results from free trade means the money saved can be pumped back into the economy. They also argue that in this globalized world, trade cannot be cut off entirely.
So whether you’re a protectionist, a free trader or somewhere in between, when it comes to the trade debate on the campaign trail, at least you can say, “Now I get it.”