Getting a local grip on trade issues

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

President Obama wrapped up his visit to India with signed deals that — he said — would mean more than 50,000 new American jobs.

This is no small feat. India is notorious within the global trading community as being protectionist. The visit by Obama at least got Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to agree that protectionism is not good for either country. (Of course, he worded his statement to make it sound as if both sides were equally at fault, when in fact India has massive restrictions on imports and the U.S. hardly any.)

But the 50,000 or so jobs being created (maybe protected) in the trade deals signed this week are just the tip of the iceberg.

Despite the rhetoric of isolationists on the left and right in the United States, trade is good for America and American jobs.

Back in September Bruce Katz, Brookings Institution vice president and Jonathan T. Rothwell, Brookings senior research analyst, wrote about the five myths about U.S. exports.

Some key points in their article:

  • U.S. exports grew 14.1 percent from the second quarter of 2009 to the second quarter of 2010, a pace far outstripping the 3 percent growth of the economy overall.
  • While domestic consumers struggle with unemployment and debt, demand in many other countries is booming, and that demand could be translated into U.S. job growth.
  • Our exports include not only manufactured objects but also services and intellectual property. Indeed, services account for roughly a third of all U.S. exports, and this share has been growing.
  • Our other service exports include travel and tourism (the services we sell to international tourists, from restaurant meals to hotel stays, count as exports, even though they are enjoyed on U.S. soil)
  • Although exports make up a smaller share of our economy than in export-oriented Germany and China, our strength in high-quality services and high-value goods shows that we can compete in the fields where innovation matters most. The U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest rates of innovation (as measured by the number of patents issued per worker) are also the most export-oriented.
  • For every $1 billion in exports by a given industry in a given metropolitan area, wages in that industry in that area increase 2 percent over the wages paid to other workers in the region, regardless of workers’ education levels.
  • The rise of developing countries has created a substantial number of jobs in the United States. In research we…found that from 2003 to 2008, the value of U.S. exports to Brazil, India and China doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars, accounting for 8.8 percent of U.S. exports in 2008. Put another way, our exports to these countries increased 121 percent over that time period, compared with a 46 percent increase in U.S. exports overall.
  • We have many ways of boosting exports, and we don’t exploit all of them.
  • Wichita doubled its exports between 2003 and 2008…supported by a variety of federal, state and local institutions, including nonprofits and private-public partnerships.

It would be nice to see more reporting from local news outlets about how local products are being sold overseas. Of course that might also mean these same news organizations will have to report on the economic, social and political situations in those countries that are now vital trading partners. (After all, if a big buying country suddenly has an economic melt down or an unstable government, they won’t be buying from the local company any more.)

And as I pointed out a while back, for every 80 or so visas issued to Brazilians to visit the United States, one job is created in the U.S. economy. And the U.S. mission in Brazil issues A LOT of visas each week. (Maybe the news outlets in Orlando and Miami — top sites for Brazilian visitors — might want to take notice.)

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