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Saturday, June 15, 2024

UW-Madison professors discuss trade policy, presidential campaign rhetoric

Three UW-Madison professors gathered in the Festival Room of Memorial Union Wednesday to talk about the future of trade in the U.S., EU, and around the world.

The talk was led by professors Joseph Conti, Jon Pevehouse and Mark Copelovitch. Around 30 people attended the event, from college students to senior citizens. Each professor spoke briefly before opening the event to questions from the audience.

Copelovitch started off the discussion by saying that a lot of the anti-trade talk in the presidential campaign, especially from Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, struck him as “bizarre.” He said the economy has been growing for several years, and that such criticism would have been better used four years ago.

Copelovitch went on to say the media isn’t reporting that most people benefit from trade. He also stated trade doesn’t really affect rising inequality and is relatively unimportant in the U.S.

Trump’s trade policy was a particular target of Copelovitch’s, who claimed his policies are actually illegal. He argued the government has made commitments that cannot be broken.

“There is international law and you will get sued,” Copelovitch said.

Pevehouse stated he agreed with everything Copelovitch said, and pointed out that Pew surveys “usually show the overwhelming majority of people support trade.”

Education was also key for Pevehouse, who said it was the biggest predictor of whether or not people support free trade. Those with a college degree are more likely to support it, he said.

“International trade agreements aren’t perfect. They have problems, but the world looks worse without them,” Pevehouse said.

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