What is Trade Adjustment?
What is the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Program?
Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programs provide federal assistance to workers and firms that have been adversely affected by trade. TAA programs are authorized by the Trade Act of 1974, as amended, and were last reauthorized by the Trade Adjustment Assistance Reauthorization Act of 2015 (Title IV of P.L. 114-27). TAA for Workers (TAAW) is the largest program, with appropriations of $790 million in FY2019. TAAW provides assistance to trade- affected workers who have been separated from their jobs due to foreign competition, either through increased imports or because their jobs were relocated abroad. The program is administered at the federal level by the Department of Labor and supports various benefits and services, including funding for career services and training, and income support for workers, formally known as Trade Readjustment Allowance. Actual benefits are provided to individual workers through state workforce systems and state unemployment insurance systems. Smaller TAA programs are also authorized for firms and farmers affected by foreign competition.
What is the rationale for TAA?
While trade liberalization may increase the overall economic welfare of the affected trade partners, it can cause adjustment problems for firms and workers facing import competition. Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) has long been justified on the grounds that it is among the least disruptive options for offsetting policy-driven trade liberalization. Justification for TAA rests on arguments for (1) economic efficiency, by facilitating the adjustment process and returning workers to work more quickly; (2) equity, by compensating those who lose out due to liberalized trade and spreading the costs to society as a whole; and (3) generating support for international trade, by defusing domestic opposition to trade agreements and other trade policy measures. TAA skeptics argue that assistance is costly and economically inefficient, reduces worker and firm incentives to relocate and adjust to increased competition, and may not be equitable given that many groups hurt by changing economic circumstances caused by factors other than trade policies are not afforded special economic assistance. Others argue that TAA programs are not extensive enough to be effective. Despite widespread disagreement, Congress has consistently reached compromise to maintain the program in some form over the past five decades.