US Economy: Trade Enforcement Creates American Jobs

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KEY POINTS

  • Virtually every country in the world has signed up to rules that require them to treat U.S. exports and U.S. companies fairly. If our trading partners would fulfill the commitments they have made and provide a level playing field for U.S. companies, U.S. companies could sell more products and services in those markets to boost American jobs.
  • The magnitude of the economic challenge we face fairly demands that we address longstanding market access barriers that hold down U.S. employment.
  • A broad coalition of business associations from across the economy has banded together to form the Alliance for Trade Enforcement.

Roughly one in four American workers have filed for unemployment since the pandemic began. To stem the historic tide of unemployment, policymakers quickly put together a series of legislative packages to help companies keep their workers on payroll. These measures have fortunately had some success, but these difficult times require that our leaders leave no stone unturned to support American workers, farmers, and businesses.

An often-overlooked economic stimulus that requires no additional spending of federal dollars is trade enforcement. Virtually every country in the world has signed up to rules that require them to treat U.S. exports and U.S. companies fairly. If our trading partners would fulfill the commitments they have made and provide a level playing field for U.S. companies, U.S. companies could sell more products and services in those markets to boost American jobs.

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Unfortunately, our trading partners often don’t play by the rules they agreed to. They subject U.S. companies to more regulation than their domestic companies. They block U.S. companies from operating freely in their markets to protect a domestic company from competition. Or they purposely undervalue or outright steal U.S. companies’ innovative ideas.

In fact, some of the worst trade violations involve other countries’ treatment of America’s intellectual property rights, the intangible yet incredibly valuable rights that protect the movies, music, software, medicines, and innumerable innovative products that Americans are so good at inventing. Our country’s intellectual property assets total around $6.6 trillion. Intellectual property-intensive industries employ some 45 million Americans who earn about 46 percent more, on average, than their counterparts in other areas of the economy. These are the advanced industries of the future that will create jobs far faster than other sectors and are invaluable in our current economic crisis. Altogether, intellectual property theft sucks up to $600 billion out of the U.S. economy every year.

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When Brazil, India, or South Africa fail to respect global copyright norms — allowing movies, music, or software to be pirated with impunity — set designers, studio musicians, engineers, programmers, and others in America lose out on work. When Canada, Japan, or South Korea refuse to pay anything more than a fraction of the fair cost of medicine researched, developed, and sold by a U.S. company, that company can’t hire the next researcher to discover the next new medicine. And when Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam require companies to build costly local data centers, create new taxes on goods and services sold online, or block U.S. streaming companies from operating in their markets, these countries limit or block the opportunity of U.S. tech firms to win new customers abroad and hire more U.S. workers at home.

These are just a few examples of the myriad of persistent trade barriers U.S. companies face overseas in countries that have promised not to impose such barriers. With so many of our fellow citizens looking for work and our businesses struggling, now is the right time to take a hard look at these barriers as part of an “all of the above” strategy to getting Americans back to work.

 

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The magnitude of the economic challenge we face fairly demands that we address longstanding market access barriers that hold down U.S. employment. Americans support action on this front. According to a recent survey, nearly two in three voters recognize that our trading partners undervalue American inventions. More than four in five voters want policymakers to do something about it.

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