Some vocal critics of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which authorizes the President to negotiate trade agreements with other countries, argue that free trade harms U.S. workers. Economic experts disagree.
In 2006, 87.5 percent of respondents to a survey of 210 PhD members of the American Economic Association agreed that the United States should eliminate remaining tariffs and other barriers to trade. More recently, a 2012 survey of prominent economists found that 85 percent agreed with the following statement: “Freer trade improves productive efficiency and offers consumers better choices, and in the long run these gains are much larger than any effects on employment.”
Data collected by The Heritage Foundation over the past 20 years demonstrate these benefits.
Grocery shoppers can taste and see the benefits this winter when they buy fresh fruit and flowers—thanks to trade agreements with Mexico and Colombia. New agreements that promote economic freedom would bring even more benefits in the future.
The goal for Congress and the Administration should be to negotiate agreements that truly liberalize trade and investment. That’s a question of how TPA works, because it is the legislation that outlines the country’s objectives in trade negotiations.
A separate question is whether specific trade agreements benefit the United States. As Walter Lohman, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, recently testified with respect to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement: “In the end, the traditional supporters of free trade are going to be looking for a truly economy-freeing agreement.”
The relevant question isn’t whether free trade is good but whether TPA would result in agreements that boost trade and economic freedom.