Populist voices on the left and right have found this much to agree on in this campaign season—they think freer trade has been a disaster for American workers and needs to be rolled back. The reality is more nuanced. The U.S. does run a trade deficit, but that doesn’t mean we’re “losing” to other countries. Global trade—both exports and imports—is deeply ingrained in the U.S. economy, accounting for 28% of GDP today, up from 9% in 1960.
Chart by Nicolas Rapp. Source: U.S. Department of Commerce.