Unfortunately, I think that many or most Trump voters actually believe that we are somehow “losing” in the arena of international trade, and that there is something a President can do to change that. On a similar note, the Obama voters believed that their man could “stop the rise of the oceans” and “heal the planet.” Is there really much difference?
How would you measure whether we are “losing” to another country in international trade? Me, I would start with per capita GDP. That statistic would basically tell you which country’s workers have the higher-value jobs, and by how much. So how does the U.S. stack up against China and Mexico in per capita GDP? Here is a chart compiled by Wikipedia that includes per capita GDP numbers for all the countries of the world from three sources — the IMF, the World Bank, and the UN. All three are pretty close for these purposes, so I’ll use the IMF numbers (which come from 2015; the others are for 2014). And the answer is: US per capita GDP for 2015 is $55,904; Mexico is $9,592; and China is $8,280. Whoa! That’s saying that people in the U.S., on average, are close to six times as productive as Mexicans, and almost seven times as productive as Chinese. I would submit that any rational person would conclude that we are killing them in the international economic competition. Indeed, it’s not remotely close. (And by the way, did you know that even after the tremendous economic growth in China in the last two decades, Mexico is still the wealthier country by a considerable margin? It pays to look at the statistics.)
Are these jobs that are one-sixth or one-seventh as productive as our jobs the ones that Trump plans to “bring home”? Another way of looking at that is that Mexican and Chinese jobs are not productive enough to support a wage as high as the U.S. minimum wage for any but a tiny percentage of their workers. How could it possibly be a good thing to bring those jobs here?