Bernie Sanders’s views on foreign trade would have negative consequences for American workers and devastate the impoverished in foreign countries.
In an interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News, Sanders perspective on foreign trade echoed Donald Trump.
“It is cities all over this country have lost their tax base. They've lost their decent-paying jobs because of disastrous trade policies,” Sanders said.
Were it not for the trade dealers, Sanders believes, American workers would be better off and more manufacturing jobs would have remained in the United States. While Sanders recognizes, at least in foreign trade, that tradeoffs exist and not everyone will receive benefits, he vastly misunderstands the effects of trade.
That’s detrimental to low-skilled and low-income Americans, and even more so for impoverished foreigners. If it were up to Sanders, he would drastically curtail American foreign trade.
“I do believe in trade. But it has to be based on principles that are fair … So you have to have standards. And what fair trade means to say that it is fair. It is roughly equivalent to the wages and environmental standards in the United States,” Sanders said.
He pointed to the necessity of environmental standards, worker protections, and decent wages before the United States should engage in trade with foreign countries. Otherwise, foreign competition could drive down wages for American workers.
For anyone interested in reducing world poverty, that should be extremely concerning.
“Limiting trade with low-wage countries as severely as Sanders wants to would hurt the very poorest people on Earth. A lot,” Zack Beauchamp noted for Vox (emphasis in original).
Sanders might want to protect American wages and improve the lot of the lower and middle classes, but he could spark a trade war that would result in a round of global protectionism unseen for a century. That would dwarf anything Donald Trump would accomplish when he speaks of “winning” in trade deals with China and other countries.
“Free trade is one of the best tools we have for fighting extreme poverty. If Sanders wins, and is serious about implementing his trade agenda as outlined in the NYDN interview and elsewhere, he will impoverish millions of already-poor people,” Beauchamp wrote.
Trade agreements have become an easy target for politicians to castigate as the cause of the problems for the working class. As Paul Krugman noted, “Protectionists almost always exaggerate the adverse effects of trade liberalization.” More trade generally enriches countries who engage in it, regardless of their relative wealth. The decline of American manufacturing goes beyond the bogeyman of unfavorable trade deals, and a more protectionist economy would not have prevented those jobs from disappearing.
The Sanders campaign should be wary of how its narrative is so congenial with the Trump campaign. Both candidates’ trade policies would have terrible effects on the global poor and struggling American workers alike.