It will be difficult for America to enjoy robust economic growth if its globally traded sector industries (e.g., manufacturing, software and Internet, motion pictures and music, etc.) are not competitive. Unfortunately, America’s traded industries have lost competitive advantage. In the 2000s, the United States lost a greater share of manufacturing jobs than in the Great Depression and more than 60 percent of the losses stemmed from declining global competitiveness. In fact, from 1990 to today, the United States has achieved virtually no net growth in traded sector jobs. Meanwhile, our rank on most global innovation indicators has fallen, in some cases significantly.
While both parties talk about the importance of traded sectors, they diverge sharply on how to strengthen it. As a general rule, Republicans focus more on reducing taxes and regulations, while Democrats favor public investments in science, technology, education, and training. The next administration needs to make traded sector competitiveness a top priority and not only would reduce taxes and streamline regulatory burdens but also push for significant increases in public investments in technology and skills.