In recent weeks, the Obama administration has been pushing Congress to grant it the authority to complete a far-reaching trade agreement with 11 other nations called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Noting that America’s economic fortunes are inextricably tied to the global economy, the administration has promoted the accord as an advance for American business and workers, arguing that it will increase productivity, open markets abroad and lift wages in industries that export, while lowering prices for consumers.
A detailed report on the benefits of trade released by the president’s Council of Economic Advisers last week noted that the countries involved in the Pacific agreement account for 37 percent of the world’s output and nearly a quarter of its goods and services exports. “Among the partners are some of the fastest-growing economies in the world,” it said, providing “an enormous increase in the potential export market for U.S. goods and services.”
Trade unions, environmentalists, liberal economists and other opponents counter that the agreement would export jobs to other shores. They also complain that a new regulatory structure would favor business at the expense of workers and protect some industries against competition.
“Since our deficit is wholly in manufactured goods, it means that we’ve exported millions of better-than-average jobs in that sector by meeting much of our domestic demand for manufactured goods from foreign sources,” argued Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington.
Most of the imports that streamed into the United States in March came from Asia. Imports from China, for example, rose by nearly a third, leading to a trade deficit of $37.8 billion. The deficit with Japan increased by $2 billion to $6.3 billion, the largest in two years.
Over all, imports to the United States rose 7.7 percent from February to $239.2 billion. Cellphones, clothing, furniture, cars and computers were part of the haul from abroad that made their way into stores and homes. By contrast, American exports rose 0.9 percent to $187.8 billion