Free trade Republicans must confront globalization’s disadvantages head on to defend its tremendous benefits.
Free trade is taking a beating this presidential primary season, and not just from one side. As the campaigns head towards the party conventions, criticism of trade deals has provided a rare spot of common ground for Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
It’s too early to say whether this alignment among starkly different candidates signals a lasting shift in the politics of trade. At the very least it’s a serious challenge for those who believe that open markets and negotiated rules for global commerce are vital to American economic well-being and U.S. leadership in the world.
Supporters of free trade have fought back by reciting its benefits and by trying to debunk inaccuracies and, in some cases, bald untruths about its negative effects. But by itself this is unlikely to alter the debate. One thing supporters can do better is show that they recognize and can respond effectively to legitimate concerns that are making trade policy a target of voters’ anger, angst and distrust.