Yet, the rhetoric on Capitol Hill and on the presidential campaign trail about a declining manufacturing sector is reaching a fevered pitch. Policymakers point repeatedly to the loss of 3 million manufacturing jobs as evidence of impending doom, even though those acute losses occurred between 2000 and 2003, and job decline in manufacturing has leveled off to historic averages.
In the first six months of the 110th Congress, more than a dozen antagonistic or protectionist trade‐related bills have been introduced, which rely on the presumed precariousness of U.S. manufacturing as justification for the legislation. Justification for those bills is predicated on the belief that manufacturing is in decline and that the failure of U.S. trade policy to address unfair competition is to blame. But those premises are wrong. The totality of evidence points to a robust manufacturing sector that has thrived on account of greater international trade.