When Americans think of national security
they tend to think in terms of military threats. But national security is also a question of
maintaining a nation’s way of life, whether people have the jobs and the goods that they’re
accustomed to. Increasingly we’ve asked that question in
the context of international trade. Many of the goods that we buy come from abroad. Each day about 6 million containers of the
kind that you can see behind me arrive in the United States from other countries carrying
everything from television sets, to clothes, to toys, you name it. That globalized economy has turned out to
be both a challenge and an opportunity for the United States. The United States has important comparative
advantages. We have a vibrant tech sector. And we have the most fertile agricultural
sector in the world. Those two sectors through international trade
have generated millions of American jobs. But we also have comparative disadvantages. The wage scale in the United States is much
higher than it is in countries like China, and India, and Guatemala. That means that those goods often can be produced
more cheaply abroad. That’s good for consumers. We pay less for the goods we buy, as a result. But it also means that millions of American
jobs have been lost to foreign firms. The fact that global trade involves winners
and losers has made it one of the most important policy issues of our time.