August 8, 2016 4:00 AM, EDT

Editorial: Trade for America and Trucking

This editorial appears in the August 8 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

We are usually big fans of bipartisan cooperation. Democrats and Republicans should proclaim their ideals and preferences with clarity — especially during election campaigns — but after citizens vote there comes a time to get to work and start solving problems.

In the case of free trade, though, we are very disappointed to see this backfire. Pre-election agreement between parties is rare, but Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders all agree that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, specifically, and free trade, in general, are bad ideas.

Free trade among nations has been one of the most consistently good ideas for more than 200 years. It adds choices, quality of life and incomes to participants across the globe.

This point on incomes is usually the first to be attacked. Yes, the benefits of trade are spread out broadly, while costs can be concentrated fiercely, such as textile workers in the Carolinas.

The answer to that point, though, is for a prosperous society to provide dislocated citizens with job retraining. Teach people to do something in demand, but don’t shackle the economy.

We read frequent reports on trucks running among the United States, Canada and Mexico. It’s a staggering volume of freight.

U.S. manufacturing still is a major part of the economy. The problem, if you wish to call it that, is that we’re really good at it.

Using sophisticated machinery, the value of what we manufacture has been rising over the years, but the number of people needed to make those goods has fallen. This is the same pattern as agriculture. A very few people make the tons and tons of food that feed our nation — and get exported to other lands.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe mentioned this at the Democratic convention. He disagreed with Hillary Clinton, saying that Old Dominion farmers and factory managers are eager to expand their export opportunities — a bonus for the truckers that service them.

There are both imports and exports. Specifically, the United States exported $2.23 trillion worth of goods and services last year while importing $2.76 trillion. The net trade deficit was $531.5 billion.

At the start of the Great Depression, in 1930, the United States tried to protect itself from foreign economies by enacting the crushing Smoot-Hawley tariffs. This did lower the amount of imports, but other nations retaliated and fenced out U.S. exports in a similar fashion, and an already bad economy got much worse.

Free trade is a friend of trucking. This time, the bipartisan consensus is wrong. Support global trade.