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Popularity of global trade improves in major economies: survey

As of 2018, 56 percent of Americans have a positive view of trade deals -- like the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico
As of 2018, 56 percent of Americans have a positive view of trade deals -- like the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico As of 2018, 56 percent of Americans have a positive view of trade deals -- like the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico AFP/File
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Washington (AFP)

Good economic times in the United States have bumped up the popularity of global trade in the last four years, with more Americans saying it creates jobs, boosts pay and lowers prices, according to a survey out Wednesday.

The poll of attitudes in 27 nations also showed improving views of international trade in economies such as France, Poland, Japan and India, according to the Pew Research Center.

Americans however are more skeptical of trade's benefits than their counterparts in other major economies are.

In the world's advanced economies only slim minorities believe trade will make them wealthier by driving up pay, creating jobs or lowering wages, the survey found.

Bruce Stokes, Pew Research?s director of global economic attitudes, said trade's improving popularity coincided with the decade's economic recovery.

"What all of us kind of presume is that if you feel good about the economy, you feel good about a lot of things," he told AFP.

"It's still less than half the American public that believes trade creates jobs and raises wages."

The improving attitudes towards global trade come despite a nationalist political wave on both sides of the Atlantic, with the United States pursuing trade battles with all major economies and Britain voting to exit the European Union.

About three quarters of Americans now say international trade is good, while a median of 83 percent in nine other countries -- including France, Germany, Mexico, Russia and South Korea -- feel this is the case, according to the survey.

- Rosier views of trade deals -

Since 2014, the share of Americans saying trade creates jobs jumped 16 points to 36 percent, and those saying it raised wages rose 14 points to 31 percent -- but those saying it held down prices was about stable at 37 percent.

Europeans were similarly divided on such questions but their views have been relatively stable in the last four years, according to the survey.

Still, the view that trade is a net good for the economy jumped nine points in France to 83 percent, and also rose nine points in Indonesia, to 86 percent.

But when it comes to the details, trade remains a tough sell, said Stokes.

Just 13 percent in France and 12 percent in Italy believed trade raises worker pay.

"People aren't buying economists' arguments for trade," said Stokes. "Talking louder and talking slower isn't going to do it."

With stagnant wages making it harder to make ends meet in the United States, many survey respondents may not link trade to falling wages, according to Stokes.

"It's not clear that people believe prices can go down. It's a challenge," he said.

Recent Pew Research data from earlier this year also shows recovering support among Americans for trade deals.

As of 2018, 56 percent of Americans have a positive view of trade deals -- like the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, which US President Donald Trump has sought to renegotiate and threatened to scrap outright.

This amounts to a recovery in trade's approval rating to levels last seen before 2016's tumultuous US presidential elections, when both major candidates expressed skeptical views of trade deals.

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