Publications / Policy Memo

Trade and Good Jobs for the 99 Percent: Debating Trade, the Elites, and Jobs

By / 10.31.2016

Opponents of trade and trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) often frame the trade debate as a battle between “the elites” and average Americans, especially American workers.

Trade skeptics charge that America’s pursuit of rules-based, open trade is essentially an exercise that’s by and for big multinationals and the Wall Street one percent, while leaving everyday American workers holding the bag. Critics like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders claim that Americans would be better served by upending trade pacts like NAFTA, scrapping proposed deals like the TPP, and jacking up tariffs—including Trump’s proposed duties of 45 percent on Chinese imports and 35 percent on goods from Mexico. These tactics, they argue, would pressure trade partners and U.S. multinationals and “bring back” American jobs

But would a shift toward protectionism really help the 99 percent? Would such policies support more and better jobs for middle class workers? Guarantee a more prosperous and inclusive economic future for everyday Americans? If not, what policies would?


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