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Forecast 2017 Q&A: U-M's Marina Whitman talks trade

Marina Whitman Marina v.N. WhitmanMarina v.N. Whitmanis a professor of business administration at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and a professor of public policy at the Ford School of Public Policy. She examines questions of international trade and investment and served as chief economist and first female group vice president at General Motors.

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Q: As our trade policy shifts under a new president, what role do you think the U.S. will play in global trade?

WHITMAN: The signs point to a more protectionist trade policy. There are some notions that are simply uninformed, such as thinking you can bring jobs back to the United States by placing tariffs on goods from Mexico. The fact is when you liberalize trade...there are winners and losers. The winners vastly outnumber the losers. While the winners are very scattered and may not even know they are, the losers who feel it in the loss of jobs feel it much more intensely. We have tended not to pay attention to the losers. As long as we gain as a country, the thinking goes, we're all better off.

It's a combination of true misinformation and the fact that we haven't done enough for displaced workers. We are stingy as a country in the way we help workers transition to new jobs and give them a social safety net. Almost all the other industrialized countries are more generous than we are.

Q: Can Trump put a stop to globalization?

WHITMAN: Except for interruptions from war, globalization has been going on for at least 100 years as the cost of transportation has fallen. To try to undo that would come at huge costs. You'd almost have to have a police state to do it. You'd have to prevent individuals and firms from doing things. That doesn't mean that there aren't negatives to globalization. But to say, 'Stop the world, I want to get off,' is not likely to be a winning strategy.

 

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