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“Free Trade”, the double-edged sword, gets new scrutiny in the presidential campaigns

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are riding the populist “winter of our discontent”. Global trade is their target.

Free Trade Agreements have now become a top issue in the presidential campaigns, especially in the “rust-belt”. The central question: Do Americans care more about global trade’s resulting lower prices than the consequent — lower wages and manufacturing unemployment?

Jared Bernstein today throws down the gauntlet on Free Trade Agreements (F.T.A. s).

Bernstein, a senior fellow at the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, writes in today’s New York Times: “For decades, free-trade agreements …  have been one of the most solid planks in the platform of economic elites and establishment politicians … Those days may well be over.”

[David Ricardo, 19th century theoretical economist, crystalized the development of international trade thought with his much-debated “comparative advantage” formulation.] Today free trade is widely recognized as delivering marginal benefits (such as  consumers lower-cost products) to the many at the great expense to the relatively few (workers laid off or employed with reduced wages)].

Bernstein is unequivocal in his recommendation: “… we should welcome the end of F.T.A. s [thus] allowing a little voice for working people. With such noise behind us, we might be ready for the next generation  of advanced production and help our exporters fight back against currency manipulators. That would be more productive than fighting tooth and nail over the next big trade deal.”