Can Trade Work for Workers?



George H. Hanson | Foreign Affairs

For decades, the promise of globalization has rested on a vision of a world in which goods, services, and capital would flow across borders as never before; whatever its other features and components, contemporary globalization has been primarily about trade and foreign investment. Today’s globalized economy has been shaped to a large extent by a series of major trade agreements that were sold as win-win propositions: corporations, investors, workers, and consumers would all benefit from lowered barriers and harmonized standards. American advocates of this view claimed that deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement would supercharge growth, create jobs, and strengthen the United States’ standing as the world’s largest and most important economy. According to then President George H. W. Bush, “NAFTA means more exports, and more exports means more American jobs.”

A quarter of a century later, such optimism appears profoundly misplaced. NAFTA and other…

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