Survey finds skepticism about trade's benefits

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans, Japanese and many Europeans aren't sold on the benefits of trade. They doubt that global economic ties create jobs or raise wages, an international survey conducted by the Pew Research Center shows.

But people China and other low- and middle-income countries are far more convinced that trade delivers jobs and higher wages, Pew said Tuesday in releasing the results of its survey of 48,643 people in 44 countries.

The center found that 50 percent of Americans say trade destroys jobs, while just 20 percent say it creates them. Only Italians — 59 percent of whom see trade as a job killer — have a more negative view. The French and Japanese are also far more likely to view trade as a job destroyer than as a job creator.

Similarly, Americans are far more likely (45 percent to 17 percent) to say trade reduces wages, instead of raising them. The French, Italians, Japanese and Greeks agree.

In China, 67 percent say trade creates jobs, and 61 percent say it raises wages. People in most emerging-market countries, from Vietnam to Tunisia, share that positive view of trade.

China's support for trade isn't surprising considering that "wages in China have been growing 10 percent per year on average for a decade while exports have been growing by 15 percent per year," said Bruce Stokes, director of Pew's studies of global economic attitudes.

The United States, by contrast, has lost millions of manufacturing jobs over the past two decades and has endured "stagnating and declining wages for a generation," Stokes said.

Indeed, an academic report published last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that trade competition with China had cost the United States more than 2 million jobs from 1999 to 2011.

Americans' skeptical view of globalization "makes all the sense in the world," Stokes said.

Around the world, people also have ambivalent feelings about foreign investment: They tend to support foreign companies building factories in their countries, but they are far less enthusiastic about foreign companies buying local firms: 67 percent of Americans, 76 percent of Japanese, 79 percent of Germans and 50 percent of Chinese take a dim view of foreigners buying local companies.

The doubts about trade in advanced economies could make it harder for the United States to negotiate ambitious trade agreements in Asia and Europe, Pew said.

The U.S. government, arguing that expanded trade creates jobs and stimulates economic growth, is negotiating a major free trade agreement with Japan and 10 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. It is also working on another trade deal with the 28-country Europe Union.

The skeptical attitudes toward trade in many of the countries involved in the negotiations "could complicate current government efforts to further deepen and broaden global markets," the Pew report said.

Despite doubts about the specific benefits of trade, people mostly support trade in the abstract. Worldwide, 81 percent say trade and global business ties were good for their country; even 68 percent of Americans agree.

"It's a contradiction," Stokes said. "People are saying not that they are against (trade) in principle. They're saying they haven't seen the benefits."

Pew conducted its survey based on telephone and face-to-face interviews from March 17 to June 5.

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