PEW Survey 2015: Are Free Trade Agreements Good for America

June 4, 2015 at 10:37

Most Americans believe free trade agreements (FTAs) are good for America – it’s not personal.


Amidst the Congressional trade debates, Pew Research Center conducted a survey in mid-May revealing broad public agreement that free trade agreements are good for the United States.


58% of respondents said free trade agreements with other countries have been a good thing for the United States.  33% disagreed.


Overall views about whether trade agreements are good for the United States are 10 percentage points higher today than in 2011 (58% now, 48% then).


Two key takeaways from the Pew Research:


First, the majority of positive views toward FTAs holds across income categories. Where differences emerge across income categories is when Americans consider whether FTAs impact their personal financial situation.
Why does this matter?


Today, most Americans recognize (and appreciate) their lives are filled with global products and services from their first sip of coffee in the morning to the energy lighting the book they read in bed at the end of the day. (In case you missed it, watch the WTO’s new video highlighting our global everyday lives.)


But despite this recognition, a dynamic persists in trade politics first highlighted by I.M. Destler, an award-winning professor in public policy.  Destler noted that those who benefit from trade are generally diffuse and tend to view their stake in any particular trade matter as small.  This leads to an imbalance in the intensity of interest and in political organization, meaning the supportive majority doesn’t make itself heard in Congressional debates.  But the Pew numbers show that even if they aren’t sure whether FTAs help their personal financial security, most Americans do believe FTAs offer a general benefit to the country.


Second, the new Pew research underscores only modest partisan differences over the impact of free trade agreements on the country and people’s personal finances.


Why does this matter?


Because Congress is debating the future direction of U.S. trade policy under Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the Administration’s first opportunity to put TPA to work will be to conclude the TransPacific Partnership Agreement that would further integrate countries whose economies are worth $28 trillion.  The debate between Democrats and Republicans in Congress might not mirror the closeness in views among Democrats and Republicans in the general public.
Source: Progressive Economy

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