Failed Expectations of U.S. Trade Policy: Lessons for Change

Date: January 27, 2009

[Audio, written remarks, and recommended reading below]

Robert Cassidy

Once touted as a magic elixir that would lift the world’s economies and create opportunity for American workers, free trade was embraced by U.S. leaders from both parties who entered into a succession of agreements that lowered tariffs while protecting corporate interests.

China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2000 accelerated the changes wrought by this new approach and exposed its fundamental flaws. The benefits were skewed toward the already-affluent, while working families shouldered the burden of free trade’s considerable downside: millions of lost jobs, stagnating or falling wages, and U.S. products increasingly disadvantaged in the world marketplace.

Now at a time of broad political change, the existing trade regime is being questioned by a growing number of economists and political thinkers. Notable among them is the former top Clinton administration official for China trade, Robert Cassidy, who is now speaking out against the signature trade agreement he helped to negotiate, which paved the way for China’s accession to the WTO.

This forum featured a conversation with Cassidy about where we are, how we got there, and what the new administration should do differently to correct the errors of the past two decades and redefine a new, better approach to global trade.

PRESENTER: Robert Cassidy
Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Asia and for China during the Clinton Administration

Policy Director and Chief International Economist, AFL-CIO

RESPONDENT: Mark Levinson
Chief Economist, UNITE HERE and co-director of EPI’s Agenda for Shared Prosperity (2005-2006)

MODERATOR: Robert E. Scott
EPI Senior International Economist and author of extensive research on the costs of free trade

LOCATION: Economic Policy Institute, Washington, DC

Audio and written remarks from this forum

Listen to this forum: [listen/stream] [download MP3] [100 min.; 94 MB]

Read written remarks from Robert Cassidy

Recommended reading

Getting tough with China (EPI Analysis and Opinion, January 23, 2009)

New Trade Policies for a New Era (EPI Analysis and Opinion, December 24, 2008)

The China Trade Toll (EPI Briefing Paper #219, July 30, 2008)
The China Trade Toll: Supplemental Table (Jobs lost by State and Industry) [PDF]

The burden of outsourcing: U.S. non-oil trade deficit costs more than 5 million jobs (EPI Briefing Paper #222, October 2, 2008)

China Manipulates is Currency, A response is needed (EPI Policy Memo #116, September 25, 2006)

Everybody wins, except for most of us: What economics teaches about globalization (An EPI Book, November 2008)

Globalization and American Wages: Today and Tomorrow (EPI Briefing Paper #196, October 10, 2007)

Trade, Jobs and Wages (May 6, 2008, EPI Issue Brief #244)

The gains from trade: How big and who gets them? (December 17, 2007, EPI Working Paper #280)