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Former US president George W. Bush is urging Americans not to give up on free trade

Former US President George W. Bush
Reuters/Jonathan Bachman
“Anger shouldn’t drive policy.”
  • Ana Campoy
By Ana Campoy

Deputy editor, global finance and economics

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Former US president George W. Bush told Americans who voted for Donald Trump that he understands their frustration, but asked them not to take it out on international trade.

Instead, he urged them to look at treaties such as NAFTA, which president-elect Trump has promised to shred, as a job source instead of a job killer.

“I understand anger,” he said today (Nov. 15) in Dallas at a gathering of the North American Strategy for Competitiveness, a pro-trade group. “But anger shouldn’t drive policy. What needs to drive policy is what’s best for the people who are angry and how does that benefit people in our country and the countries in the neighborhood.”

NAFTA has increased jobs for all three of its members, Canada, the US, and Mexico, and lowered the prices for goods that Americans buy every day, Bush said. It has helped small companies grow, it drives technological innovation, and it makes the US more competitive with China, he added.

“It’s a win, win, win. We’re not pirating from each other,” he said. “We’re working together to be more competitive in an ever changing world.”

Bush, who reportedly did not vote for Trump nor for Hillary Clinton, allowed that international competition from free trade can also gut certain types of manufacturing, like textile factories in North Carolina. The answer is not to deny reality, he said, but to adjust. Displaced workers have to get help in getting retrained and creating industries, he said.

“Are we going to be a dynamic economy or a stagnant economy?” Bush asked. “A lot of it centers on helping people understand the realities of the world in a positive way.”

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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