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It’s Time to Trade-In Old Ideas About Trade

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead. But what should trade look like going forward? That is the question many will be grappling with in the months and years ahead.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has some ideas, and they are certainly worth considering as fair trade advocates and policymakers try to decide what’s next. To start, however, everyone needs to take a step back and agree on a set of parameters.

EPI notes:

The trade policy of the last quarter century is now bankrupt, economically and politically. This is the moment for America to go back to the drawing board and rethink strategies for competing in the global economy in ways that raise living standards for all.

There needs to be an acknowledgement that past trade deals in place, ones like NAFTA and the U.S.-Korea trade deals, have been failures. That’s the first step towards recovery. Hundreds of thousands of jobs from them have been lost and there is no way to politically spin that result.

Going forward, EPI states investment at home needs to play a significant role in trade. That’s what will allow American workers to compete in a global economy. But they can’t be delayed:

Americans need massive investments in education, training, infrastructure, and technology—and reforms in taxes and macroeconomic policies. Without better policies to increase the competitiveness of American workers, each new trade deal further undercuts the incomes and opportunities of the majority of Americans.

Beyond that, workers’ rights need to be protected. That means their ability to join unions, as well as availability of quality health care. There also need to be changes to taxes and regulations that restrict growth, EPI says, as well as a crackdown on currency manipulation and tax havens.

This is not a final list. But it is a starting point for how elected officials should proceed when it comes to trade in the future. A vast rethinking of the issue is needed.

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