Correction: An editing mistake introduced an error into an earlier version of Alan Tonelson’s letter below. Mr. Tonelson wrote, “Since the Great Recession officially ended in mid-2009, wider trade deficits have reduced already sluggish U.S. growth by more than 4 percent, with nearly all the damage in the private sector.” The phrase “in 2011” was added after “4 percent,” but that is incorrect: The decline dates from the second quarter of 2009 to the third quarter of 2013 (the most recent available), according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The following version has been updated.
In his Jan. 15 op-ed column, “More free trade means more inequality,” Harold Meyerson missed the context of a statement I made in the fall and failed to acknowledge the economic, political and social benefits that our free-trade agreements have yielded and that coming agreements will yield.
The Obama administration is working hard to complete trade pacts that will establish new rules for doing business in many parts of the world. As The Post editorialized Jan. 12 [“A plan for growth], free-trade agreements should “help the U.S. economy grow and create employment.”
The administration enters trade agreements with its eyes open about their benefits and challenges. The administration’s greater economic agenda is in sync with its trade agenda, which aims to raise standards globally. Competition undoubtedly brings opportunities and difficult transitions for businesses and workers, and both the president and I get up every day thinking about how to help American workers develop the skills, support and training they need to thrive in the global economy.
In a world that is increasingly tied together, the correct response to these challenges is not to limit trade or engagement with the world. That would only isolate the U.S. economy and make the United States less competitive and prosperous as a nation.
Rather, the correct response is to work with allies and partners around the world to create a new standard for doing business while working to anticipate and mitigate the impact these agreements can have at home. This is precisely what the administration is doing.
Penny Pritzker, Washington
The writer is U.S. commerce secretary.
Harold Meyerson’s column suffered from the classic fallacy in logic “post hoc ergo propter hoc” (after this, therefore because of this). It’s true that there is an association between the progress of free-trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States. National employment is a result of numerous factors, not only free-trade agreements. To show causation, Mr. Meyerson needed also to show the absence of other factors.
He applied the same rationale to the rise of our trade deficit with our NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico. Why then has the U.S. trade deficit with China grown from $23 billion in 1993 to $315 billion in 2012? The United States has no free-trade agreement with China and yet has a higher trade deficit with China than with any other nation.
Mr. Meyerson’s arguments also ignored any positive outcomes of trade agreements for the United States and its trading partners.
Vinod Jain, White Plains, Md.
The Jan. 12 editorial on U.S. trade policy called legislation that would fast-track trade deals “a plan for growth.” Instead, because previously fast-tracked trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement have contributed prominently to rising U.S. trade deficits and because these deficits, by definition, slow economic growth, the legislation is a plan for an even weaker recovery — and, with it, diminished job creation.
Since the Great Recession officially ended in mid-2009, wider trade deficits have reduced already sluggish U.S. growth by more than 4 percent , with nearly all the damage in the private sector. New agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership can bring only more of the same.
During the 1990s and 2000s, the growth-slowing effects of worsening U.S. trade deficits were widely overlooked, as they were offset by stock market, tech, housing and credit bubbles. Today, continued expansion of the trade deficit is unaffordable. If the president and Congress genuinely want to foster growth and hiring through trade policy, they’ll drop the focus on fast-tracking and develop new policies that can reduce the trade shortfall.
Alan Tonelson, Riverdale Park
The writer is a research fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council.