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Trump, Clinton Vilify Trade

Paul M. Sabbah, President, Stamford International Inc.

Trade and trade agreements have become the piñatas of the 2016 presidential campaign, with both sides taking repeated whacks, and garnering cheers from their supporters with each swing

Somehow, we have allowed politicians to convince us that trade is at the root of our economic woes, and that forgoing agreements or closing the borders will boost domestic manufacturing and, thereby, the middle class.

But, as with any multifaceted, complex issue, trade should not be vilified based on oversimplified explanations.

Trade for America means jobs, jobs and more jobs. Trade encourages multinationals to invest in the United States and to build manufacturing and logistics hubs here, both of which will create jobs.

Our ability to trade successfully with other nations has encouraged companies such as BMW to build cars in South Carolina, Mercedes to build cars in Alabama and Toyota to build cars in Kentucky. If we close our borders, or raise our trade costs, those companies will move to countries where importing and exporting are easier, taking those jobs with them.

Trade helps open markets for exports, which creates jobs in engineering, industrial design, manufacturing, sales and logistics in the U.S It also allows us to export food to world markets, supporting farm jobs in California, Florida and the heartland.  Trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), lower barriers in other regions such as Asia, where then the U.S. can better compete with China.

For small businesses like mine, which helps U.S. companies sell their products in more than 80 countries around the world, open trade agreements are the lifeblood of our business, and allow us to support the efforts of domestic manufacturers in Connecticut, Michigan, California, Maryland and New Jersey.

No, trade won’t bring back the jobs of workers who made buggy whips back when horse-drawn carriages ruled the road. Innovation and productivity took those jobs away in the form of the automobile. And would we bring back toll collectors and do away with the E-ZPass?  The efficiency in time and reshifting of labor from toll collector to the design, manufacture, sales and distribution of the E-ZPass certainly led to job loss. But it gained us a faster commute, more productive commerce and new jobs. 

Our economy will change, business will change, and advancements in technology will require us to change our skills, adapt and keep our trade borders open. Refusing to adapt to change is what will truly damage our economy. To remain innovation leaders, and to create jobs in the new economy, the U.S. must embrace market-opening deals.
Paul M. Sabbah is the president of Stamford International Inc., a Stamford-based sales and marketing management company focused on export sales.