Enforcing existing U.S. and international trade laws as well as threatening tariffs on Chinese imports are some of the ways to reverse the loss of more than 3 million U.S. jobs to China since 2001, a Washington think tank and other trade critics said Tuesday.
About 3.4 million U.S. jobs were lost because of China’s mercantile trade policies between 2001 and 2015, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank that backs policies supporting the lower and middle classes. Over that period, the U.S. trade deficit has grown from $83 billion to $367.2 billion, according to Robert Scott, the institute’s senior economist and author of the report.
About 2.6 million of the jobs lost were in manufacturing, the report found. Mr. Scott said China’s aggressive export strategy also has forced down the wages of the average American worker by $1,800 annually.
“If we continue down the same path for the next 15 years, what will the U.S. economy look like?” asked United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard. “We have a trading system that does not work. Period.”
Mr. Gerard joined Mr. Scott and Alliance for American Manufacturing president Scott Paul in a conference call with reporters to discuss the report.
Mr. Scott said threatening to impose tariffs on unfairly traded goods, something President Donald Trump has talked about, worked during the Nixon and Reagan administrations.
“It’s important to have the threat of a tariff as a policy lever,” he said. “It’s important to have that gun loaded. We do not need to pull the trigger.”
As to whether Mr. Trump will impose a tax on Chinese imports, “It’s hard to tell what Trump is going to do from day to day, from month to month,” Mr. Scott said.
Mr. Gerard said blue collar voters outraged that policy makers had not done more to protect manufacturing jobs contributed to Mr. Trump’s victory in November.
“That was voters who were fed up with the current system and wanted to vote for change. President Trump offered that change,” the USW chief said.
Mr. Paul, whose group includes U.S. companies and labor unions, said part of the solution is enforcing U.S. and World Trade Organization laws already on the books. He said the Chinese will be susceptible to pressure because they rely on the U.S. economy more than the U.S. relies on the Chinese economy.
“We have the leverage in this relationship,” Mr. Paul said.
Trade critics maintain that China promotes its economy at the expense of U.S. workers by subsidizing exports, manipulating its currency to make Chinese goods cheaper and erecting barriers to U.S. goods entering its borders.
“China violates every rule there is on normal trading relationships,” Mr. Gerard said.
Mr. Scott’s report said Pennsylvania lost 136,700 jobs to China over the 15-year period, ranking it fifth among the states. California topped the list with 589,100 jobs lost.
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