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The Decreasing Popularity of Trade Deals

An interesting article about trade and American politics appeared on Politico a bit ago. The piece points out, quite rightly, that 10, 20 years ago, it seemed as though many Americans didn’t think about trade deals. Now, however, a very different reality is emerging.

“… public fury over those same trade deals has become volcanic,” Politico reports.

“Precious few Americans had even heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership a year ago. Now, opposition to the deal is driving populists on both the left and right, and has even been adopted by the non-populist Hillary Clinton, a politician who has supported many such deals throughout her career.”

Politico then adds that the 20-year old public acceptance of trade deals may have actually been—surprise—an illusion, “propped up by the support of business elites plus the appearance of professional unanimity among mainstream economists. Those who doubted were dismissed as throwback isolationists, or as deluded radicals like the protesters who tried to disrupt the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle in 1999, or as union types who simply 'didn’t get it' (to use the favorite expression of the New Economy 1990s), anxious to protect their obsolete Rust Belt jobs.”

Well, trade haters are now getting their day in the sun, thanks to the 2008 American financial collapse. That collapse has made Americans more willing to discuss the more intricate issues that are tied with trade. Specifically class.

“Trade is a class issue,” Politico adds.

“The trade agreements we have entered into over the past few decades have consistently harmed some Americans (manufacturing workers) while just as consistently benefiting others (owners and professionals). As a result, and more than almost any other issue, trade brings together the wealthy elements of both parties: the free-market business types in the GOP and the successful professionals among the Democrats.”

The piece goes on to explain how trade deals, such as NAFTA and the modern TPP, have and are changing how democrats—specifically successful, professional democrats—talk about trade. Just think about how well Bernie Sanders’ anti-trade message was received during this year’s election cycle.

Read the entire article over at Politico. It’s worth the read.


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