Theodore T. Lee


Trade policy is at an inflection point. Even in the best of times, trade policy suffers from systemic dysfunction. International trade policy purports to offer broad benefits: economists find that trade increases economic output—or, in layman’s terms, “grows the pie.” Domestic economic policy is then supposed to redistribute those gains equitably. However, American trade policy consistently fails at this second step. Foreign competition has disrupted local labor markets, leading to greater job churn and lower lifetime income for lower-wage workers. The presumptive solution to this problem is Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a program to help workers who lose their jobs due to import competition. Yet Congress persistently underfunds TAA. The unsurprising result is a trade system unpopular among American workers.