But he also thinks that growth in much of the developing world may hurt less skilled workers in developed economies - whether or not the developed economies turn inward and raise barriers to foreign goods and services. This creates a political problem that an open-economy policy needs to solve.
He laid this out in two Financial Times columns last spring. In April, in America needs to make a new case for trade, he argued that there is a compelling case to be made that "the US is better off with than without trade agreements and that the world will be a richer, safer place with increasing economic integration."
...I suspect that the policy debate in the US, and probably in some other countries as well, will need to confront a deeper and broader issue: the gnawing suspicion of many that the very object of internationalist economic policy – the growing prosperity of the global economy – may not be in their interests. As Paul Samuelson pointed out several years ago, the valid proposition that trade barriers hurt an economy does not imply the corollary that it necessarily benefits from the economic success of its trading partners.
...there are reasons to think that economic success abroad will be more problematic for American workers in the future.
How could that be?
First, developing countries increasingly export goods such as computers that the US produces on a significant scale, putting pressure on wages. At the same time, rising global prosperity increases the rewards accruing to the already highly paid producers of intellectual property goods such as films, where the US has a comparative advantage. Second, the growth of countries such as China raises competition for energy and environmental resources, raising the price for Americans.
Internationalism is good for the U.S., but it is hard to develop support for it...
Nevertheless, protection is untenable (A strategy to promote healthy globalization):
The public policy response of withdrawing from the global economy, or reducing the pace of integration,is ultimately untenable. It would generate resentment abroad on a dangerous scale, hurt the economy as other countries retaliated, and make us less competitive as companies in rival countries continue to integrate their production lines with developing countries. As Bill Clinton said in his first major international economic speech as president, “the United States must compete not retreat”.
So, what is to be done?
First, the US should take the lead in promoting global co-operation in the international tax arena. There has been a race to the bottom in the taxation of corporate income as nations lower their rates to entice business to issue more debt and invest in their jurisdictions. Closely related is the problem of tax havens that seek to lure wealthy citizens with promises that they can avoid paying taxes altogether on large parts of their fortunes. It might be inevitable that globalisation leads to some increases in inequality; it is not necessary that it also compromise the possibility of progressive taxation.
Second, an increased focus of international economic diplomacy should be to prevent harmful regulatory competition. In many areas it is appropriate that regulations differ between countries in response to local circumstances. But there is a reason why progressives in the early part of the 20th century sought to have the federal government take over many kinds of regulatory responsibility. They were concerned that competition for business across states, and their ease of being able to move, would lead to a race to the bottom. Financial regulation is only one example of where the mantra of needing to be “internationally competitive” has been invoked too often as a reason to cut back on regulation. There has not been enough serious consideration of the alternative – global co-operation to raise standards. While labour standards arguments have at times been invoked as a cover for protectionism, and this must be avoided, it is entirely appropriate that US policymakers seek to ensure that greater global integration does not become an excuse for eroding labour rights.
These problems are similar to those Timothy Geithner has been wrestling with: Geithner and the task force on building support for trade; Geithner on building support for international economic integration.
Photo from Harvard University