In the coming months, Congress may make decisions on international trade that will shape the U.S. economy for decades to come. The question before lawmakers is not whether the United States should trade with other countries. With exports and imports comprising 30 percent of the U.S. economy, there is no question that trading is—and always has been—in the American economy’s DNA and a critical source of its vibrancy. Rather, the choice is about how the United States should pursue trade to grow the economy from the middle out in an increasingly open and competitive world.
Increasing trade and investment integration across the world in the past several decades has transformed how the global economy works and the United States’ position in it. These changes have resulted as much from trade and investment agreements as they have from rapidly changing technological forces—revolutions in information and computing technology and transportation logistics—and business executives’ strategic decisions. Nonetheless, agreements establish the global institutions, rules, and norms of behavior that set the terms for how this economic restructuring of the world economy will proceed.
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