NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Congress should impose tough conditions on President Obama's request for authority to negotiate a free-trade agreement with Pacific nations.
Trade agreements eliminate tariffs and reduce other administrative barriers to commerce, such as restrictions on the operation of U.S. information technology for companies abroad, and protection of U.S. patents and copyrights. Those agreements should boost U.S. exports and offer consumers a wider range of less expensive imported goods.
Free trade should raise U.S. wages and incomes by moving workers from lower paying jobs, such as assembling computers, to higher paying positions, such as designing new devices and software. It doesn't always work out that way, however.
The president implemented a free-trade pact with South Korea in March 2012, promising big job gains. Bilateral imports are up $15.5 billion, while exports increased only $3 billion, at a cost of at least 100,000 U.S. jobs.
When imports grow more than exports, economists expect the value of the dollar to fall against foreign currencies. That would raise prices for foreign goods in U.S. stores and lower prices for U.S. products sold abroad to rebalance trade and create good-paying jobs. Frustrating these market adjustments, principal U.S. competitors -- China, Japan, Germany and South Korea -- pursue monetary and exchange-rate policies explicitly intended to keep their currencies cheap against the dollar and to give an advantage to their domestic industries.
Also, governments target industries such as automaking, aircraft and information technology, and compel U.S. companies to establish factories and research-and-development centers in their countries in order to be allowed to sell in their markets. Those facilities often export back into the United States, killing even more U.S. jobs.