In a Dec. 18 column, Alan Caron damns trade with faint praise and contributes to the misunderstanding about its effects on jobs and the economy.

He claims that “freewheeling” trade deals have favored big companies, and that global trade has “enriched Wall Street beyond its wildest dreams.” This may sound good to Bernie Sanders’ fans, but it’s also wrong.

The great beneficiaries of trade aren’t big companies or Wall Street. They are all the American consumers who have a much broader choice of products at lower prices than would otherwise be the case.

And American producers, large and small, who incorporate foreign inputs make their products less expensive and sometimes superior in quality. These benefits are so ingrained in the economy that they are often taken for granted.

For protectionists, trade is always about job losses.

Mr. Caron’s contention that trade has put “millions of Americans out of work” is misleading at best. It is important to know that over the past 30 years, manufacturing output in the U.S. has risen 85 percent while manufacturing employment has declined 17 percent.

Some of these losses can be attributed to trade competition, but they are a small fraction of the losses caused by technological advances, especially automation, and productivity gains. Tearing up trade agreements and otherwise restricting trade to prevent job losses would be like bulldozing the house because it has a leaky faucet.

Mr. Caron needs to define what he means by “fair” trade; otherwise, the term is meaningless. In the meantime, the free trade he disparages is responsible for higher living standards in the U.S. and expanding prosperity around the world.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.