The point is that the decisions that must be made about how to handle any adjustment falls to domestic level governments and to individual citizens. A trade agreement is not the place to address the issues of French wool growers or the English wine industry. An agreement can provide new opportunities for markets. It can lower barriers to trade in wool and wine. It can make customs procedures faster and easier. It can help service providers design websites or apps to let new customers find unique products. It can make it easier to invest in vineyards or warehouses or factories. It can help spread technology or help license or protect the ideas and intellectual property behind amazing designs. What a trade agreement does not do is provide inclusive growth. An agreement cannot create conditions for growth to spread to everyone or growth to flow evenly. It can only create new opportunities.
Indeed, globalisation is not a panacea for all economic woes nor does it come without costs. While globalisation has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, and brought immense benefits to consumers, we have to acknowledge the growing discontent. Benefits from globalisation have not been distributed evenly. We also have to recognize the impact of disruptive technologies, which can result in skills becoming obsolete and being displaced. However, we should not make globalization the scapegoat for slowing growth and unemployment. Closing borders and turning inward is not the answer. Economies are so interdependent nowadays that it would be very difficult to disconnect from the global value-chain. If we do so, our businesses and communities will lose out. Markets will shrink, fewer jobs will be created and consumers will have to bear higher costs and will have fewer choices. We should avoid actions which will only hurt ourselves and lead to retaliatory measures, undoing the good progress that we have achieved so far.
Firms cannot assume that government policies will remain benign. Companies cannot keep their heads down, their “powder dry,” or hope that some other organization will do the important work of ensuring that policy and regulatory frameworks stay supportive. Conditions can literally change overnight.
Trade does not just benefit the “1%.” It is not just for people who own stocks. Trade does not affect just the people who work in places that directly export to foreign countries. International trade matters to everyone, probably every single hour of every day. Take just the first hour of my day, for instance.