Trading Up to Create Better Jobs

Bryan Riley /

According to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, creating good jobs should be the number one priority for the next President. One of the best ways to create good jobs is to expand free trade. Consider the following numbers:

No one denies that free trade has an impact on the kinds of jobs available to Americans. For example, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that since China joined the WTO, the U.S. has lost 213,000 sewing-machine operator jobs paying $11 an hour. But we’ve also added 537,000 new jobs for registered nurses paying $33 an hour.

All those new nursing jobs aren’t entirely the result of trade with China, of course. But the money Americans save by having the freedom to buy low-priced imported shoes and t-shirts from China and elsewhere does not vanish into thin air. It creates new, better jobs for other Americans. It’s exactly the kind of stimulus Washington is always promising, but we don’t have to mortgage our future to do it—and it actually works.

Saying that “free trade destroys jobs” does not tell the whole truth. After each of the three biggest free trade deals of the last 20 years was passed, the U.S. economy added millions of jobs. Those were trades well worth making.