The truth about free trade

The presidential primary exit polls in Wisconsin last week reconfirmed that the U.S. economy was the number one issue on the voters' minds, as it is across the nation. But the most troubling part of the polls' findings was what voters blamed for the economic downturn: free trade agreements that have opened up foreign markets across the globe to American goods and services, says Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent for the Washington Times.

In fact, trade is one of the strengths in Wisconsin's economy:

  • The Badger State's exports rose by 15 per cent in 2006, following a 17.4 per cent rise in 2005; figures for last year are not in yet, but they are expected to be robust.

  • In dollar terms, Wisconsin's exports totalled $17.2 billion in 2006, up by 64 per cent since 2001.

  • Its largest export industries were in construction, farming, and industrial machinery, plus engines and power transmission equipment.

    Nevertheless, both Democratic presidential candidates, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, have been bashing trade deals in their campaigns, and they were working that issue in Wisconsin in their efforts to attract votes. People who believe that trade killed jobs in the state gave them their support.

    But turning away from trade agreements, now and in the future, will not strengthen the US economy, it will only weaken it. There is nothing wrong with the economy in Wisconsin or the rest of the country that cannot be helped by opening overseas markets to U.S. products and services. U.S. export sales have been running at about $1.3 trillion a year and that figure is going to climb as a result of an expanding world economy and a weaker dollar that is making American products more competitive.

    Source: Donald Lambro, Economy Needs Any 'Export' In A Storm,, February 25, 2008.

    For text:

    For more on Economic Issues:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 04 March 2008
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