How can one bakery focus on selling this many flavors of macaron cookie? Production in our economy is increasingly specialized. Specialization requires trade, which in turn promotes more specialization. And, the greater the number of consumers and producers, the larger the scope for each producer to focus on a narrow specialization. That’s part of the story of trade.
Higher education is fast becoming one of the world’s leading “exports.” Many people may not think of education as an “export,” but when an international student comes to the United States, for example, the monies spent on tuition, fees and living expenses are considered “exports” of education services.
In 2016, the United States ran a trade deficit of $500.6 billion. If President Trump wanted to reduce the U.S. deficit with Mexico or China, all he has to do is change the way we count it.
If you were to take a guess as to which American metropolitan areas export the most, you’d probably be right: New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Dallas, and Seattle top the list. But, if ranked by exports as a share of local GDP, it’s America’s smaller cities that top the list – four of the most export dependent are smaller cities in Indiana.
You probably know the stories of college student entrepreneurs who made it big, from Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook and Bill Gates’ Microsoft, to the founders of Dell, Google, and Yahoo. I might not walk among these giants, but in the early 1990s, I ran a small biomedical supply company — out of my dorm room, where we managed to go global.
Americans like to play to win. When it comes to international trade, however, we shouldn’t use the size and trend of the national trade deficit as a way of scoring trade policy. It’s like using the size of players’ salaries to evaluate whether you had a winning season.
Sure, it’s good when American companies export goods and services to the world. But imports make many American-made products more competitive as well as enriching our lives as consumers – they are part of the secret sauce of what makes our economy work so well.
We can – and do – talk about “America trading with China,” and about “Germany having a comparative advantage in the brewing of beer.” The very notion of “international trade” causes us to miss the essential reality of trade, which is always flesh-and-blood individuals bargaining and exchanging with each other in ways that each person judges to be in his or her best interest.
Trade has been a remarkable engine of economic growth and development, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty since the birth of the modern trade system in Bretton Woods more than six decades ago. But how can a country trade sustainably, and deliver not only balanced economic benefits to its citizens, but also strengthen social capital and provide responsible environmental stewardship?
World trade is a major driver of the global economy. According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), trade accounted for 30 percent of total global economic output in 2014, up from 20 percent in 1995. As the world has become increasingly globalized, trade has grown dramatically as a share of total global output.