Zero-Sum Game? Trump’s Mistaken Views on Trade

Zero-Sum Game? Trump’s Mistaken Views on Trade
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Trade ministers and delegates from the members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership at a meeting Thursday in Vietnam. Eleven countries committed themselves to resurrecting the pact without the United States. Credit Pool photo by Na Son Nguyen

To the Editor:

Re “Trans-Pacific Trade Allies Move On Without the U.S.” (news article, Nov. 12):

President Trump may have graduated from the Wharton School but he either skipped international economics or failed to pay attention. The age-old concept of comparative advantage teaches that in most cases both parties to a transaction derive benefits from trading with each other those products and services in which each has a comparative cost advantage.

Mistakenly, Mr. Trump thinks that every deal is a zero-sum game and that what one party gains is at the expense of the other. Nor has he learned about most-favored-nation treatment, which gives reduced tariffs to all signer nations. In the postwar period, this clause has promoted international trade on a vast scale and thereby raised living standards around the world.

By adhering to the false notion of trade as a zero-sum deal, Mr. Trump becomes a job killer rather than a job creator.

WILLIAM C. FREUND, SARASOTA, FLA.

The writer is a retired chief economist of the New York Stock Exchange.

To the Editor:

So if President Trump respects other governments for putting their countries first, and if trade is a zero-sum game, how will trade negotiators ever be able to agree on anything?

ELLEN FROST, WASHINGTON

The writer is a former counselor to the U.S. trade representative (1993-95).

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