Grading the Presidential Candidates on International Trade
International trade has played an increasingly important role in the U.S. economy. Consider that in 1960, U.S. exports registered 5.1 percent of U.S. GDP, while total trade equaled 9.5 percent of GDP. By 2003, exports had jumped to 9.5 percent of GDP, with total trade reaching 23.6 percent of GDP. Free trade reduces costs through enhanced competition and the removal of trade barriers; expands choices for consumers (including small businesses that use a wide array of imports in their own businesses), keeps U.S. firms competitive, and opens new markets and opportunities for U.S. goods and services. Meanwhile, protectionism raises prices and limits choices, shields U.S. companies from competition (creating an environment of reduced efficiency, fewer innovations and inventions, and lower quality), and closes off international opportunities for U.S. entrepreneurs and businesses as other nations retaliate, resulting in slower economic growth and fewer jobs. SBSC grades President Bush and Sen. Kerry on their possible trade policies.