Today people, goods, services and ideas all flow across borders faster than ever before. We are in an increasingly interconnected world: with the rise of social media and the advancements of modern transportation systems, we can connect with people and services across the globe faster than ever before. When we choose to trade with other nations, we get cheaper, higher quality goods. Trade also allows our country to specialize in the fields we excel at: higher paying, skilled labor.

While trade has a net positive impact economically, we must also think about its social impact. Oftentimes, companies, particularly those in the manufacturing sector, will seek cheaper labor abroad, leaving behind America’s lower skilled workforce. Many of these people face great obstacles when they lose their jobs to trade: reeducating to compete with higher skilled laborers is time consuming and expensive. If we are to pursue a free trade policy, we must also ensure that those who are adversely affected are justly compensated.

Another negative impact of trade is its polarizing effect. A 2016 study done by 4 leading economists found that communities hit particularly hard by trade induced job loss shifted to the extremes of both ends of the political spectrum. It’s not hard to believe that trade is one of the causes of the crisis levels of polarization currently plaguing in our country.

To discuss this important issue, I conducted a podcast with two prominent economists, who had differing views on the effects of trade; Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Reginald Jones Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and Robert E. Scott, Senior Economist and Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Research at the Economic Policy Institute.

Through my research and hearing what both economists had to say during the podcast changed my own personal views on trade. I have always been a strong proponent of unlimited free trade, but after hearing just how hard some communities are hit by job loss, I realize that with a very liberalized economy must come trade adjustment assistance. If the government were able to create a robust program for aiding and retraining workers, we could all reap the benefits of free trade.

If you love this topic as much as I do, and want to learn more, tune in to the podcast itself here!!