January 19, 2017
By Daniel Garza
America's national prosperity depends on our ability to engage with the rest of the world, and we are greatly enriched by what it has to offer.
The U.S. is exceptional and produces many of the best goods and services, but we also benefit from being able to freely exchange with those beyond our borders. Access to global markets increases our own prosperity and opportunity. That's because it creates export opportunities that promote job growth, while giving American consumers access to the best products the world has to offer, at competitive prices.
We win when we trade. In fact, it makes the American Dream more achievable for millions because trade makes goods and services more available and affordable here, also opening the door for businesses and entrepreneurs to sell to the billions of consumers outside of the U.S.
Unfortunately, there are special interest groups that don't see trade in this light. Instead, they argue for restrictions on the freedom of trade across our borders. This can take the form of tariffs, which make consumer goods more expensive, quotas that artificially cap imports, or regulations that unnecessarily discriminate against foreign goods.
All too often, tariffs and quotas are nothing but rewards to politically-connected businesses and industries. Not only is this cronyism, but consumers suffer when one business or industry gets special treatment. When competition is stifled, people end up paying more for lower quality goods. What's more, this disproportionately impacts up-and-coming entrepreneurs and small businesses – many of whom are Hispanic.
We need only look at Puerto Rico to see the consequences of anti-trade policy. Because of the Jones Act, which requires trade between American ports to be conducted on U.S. flagged ships that are U.S. owned, crewed, and built, Puerto Rico's economic potential is limited.
U.S. shipping services tend to be much costlier than foreign ones, so import-dependent Puerto Rico is handicapped when trading. Almost all imported goods—food, machinery, energy, and even gasoline—cost more on Puerto Rico than they do elsewhere. Ships from China and Brazil, laden with goods destined for the U.S. mainland, are not allowed to stop at Puerto Rico or Hawaii on their way here, all thanks to the Jones Act.
The costs add up, hurting millions of people and workers. The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that the Jones Act has cost Puerto Ricans approximately $29 billion over the last four decades. High costs of living along with high costs of doing business help explain why more Puerto Ricans are choosing to live on the continental U.S. with every passing year.
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Latinos in particular have a lot to gain from trade as consumers, workers, and entrepreneurs here in the U.S. We all deserve the increased standard of living that free trade makes possible.
Source: The Hill