What’s the Post-Election Outlook for U.S. Global Trade?

A recent forum, “Election Aftermath: The New Politics of Trade,” hosted by Politico and sponsored by FedEx, suggests cautious optimism.

December 2016

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Everyone agrees the recent U.S. election was extraordinary. With candidates from both major political parties expressing opposition to trade agreements, the benefits of international trade often got lost amid challenging campaign rhetoric.

So what are the implications of this election for business leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators? While it will take time to know for sure, global trade experts believe there are reasons to move into 2017 with hope and cautious optimism. This was the clear consensus at the recent Politico event sponsored by FedEx, “Election Aftermath: The New Politics of Trade,” held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., in November 2016.

FedEx Freight President and CEO Michael L. Ducker opened the event saying, “With the election behind us, it’s time that trade politics be replaced with sound trade policies. Domestic policies that build American jobs and energize the economy will go a long way to build support for future trade initiatives.”

Go Bolder on Trade

There was agreement among the speakers — which also featured U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, and U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) — that the benefits of trade aren’t being communicated clearly enough. Panelists noted the election results underscored that many Americans feel left behind due to the effects of technology, trade, globalization and other reasons. They expressed optimism that working to enforce and modernize trade agreements that work for everyone might allow America to actually — as Brady said — “go bolder” on trade.

“I hope [President-elect Trump] allows us to make the case that to grow our economy, it’s just not enough to buy American,” Brady continued. “We have to sell American all throughout the world. These trade agreements, done right, strictly enforced, level that playing field.”

One of the key challenges, according to Linda Dempsey, the international economic affairs vice president for the National Association of Manufacturers, is to improve awareness of the good that trade is doing for communities. “The United States has doubled manufacturing output since NAFTA,” Dempsey said. “We have more than doubled our exports. We talk to small businesses all the time that have been able to increase their exports, increase workforces here, or increase wages, or keep jobs here, as a result of [trade] agreements.”

When Froman took the stage later in the forum, he stressed that his office would continue to work on trade agreements, including those that would end tariffs on environmental goods and open up trade in services.

Ducker underscored the FedEx commitment to trade, saying, “Supporting international trade is something that we at FedEx are particularly passionate about because we live it every day. Trade is our business.”

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