When American voters go to the polls on November 8th, they will decide who will be the 45th president of the United States: Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
The candidates are far apart on a number of important issues, but as far as trade is concerned, they have both made similar – and very worrying – statements.
Over the past 25 years, the United States has lost 5.5 million manufacturing jobs. Those jobs have mainly disappeared because new and more efficient manufacturing technologies have been introduced.
In the United States, this has led to a situation in which the lost manufacturing jobs have been replaced by new, but often lower paid, jobs in the service sector.
That is why many Americans – in contrast to the majority of Danes – do not feel that globalisation has benefited them. This has led to Clinton, and not least Trump, speaking very critically about free trade.
The main question from a Danish and European perspective is: will the next president engage with the world outside the United States and contribute to promoting an open and liberal world order or will he or she pull the country in a more isolationist direction and detach the United States from global challenges?
The answer is very important to a trading nation like Denmark.
The United States is Denmark’s third most important market with exports that accounted for just over 101 billion kroner in 2015.
Danish businesses have investments in the United States of more than 90 billion kroner. The United States has also traditionally been the standard bearer of free trade in an international context, not least within the World Trade Organisation.
Much is at stake for the Danish business community if the United States decides to take a more isolationist route.
When Barack Obama won the presidential election in 2008, he continued the free trade agenda that can broadly be traced all the way back to the Marshall Plan following World War 2. But this progressive line risks suffering a severe setback.
The question is how bad the setback will be. Making protectionist statements is often popular in election campaigns. It makes politicians look decisive in the eyes of many voters – especially when the downsides are left unsaid.
Experience shows that presidential candidates usually steer a more pragmatic course after the election. Because no one ever became richer through less trade.
For Danish businesses and their employees, we must hope that this will be true of the next president of the United States. Because Denmark and the rest of the world need the United States to continue to fly the free trade banner.
This is true not least because we need to complete the negotiations of the trade agreement between the United States and the EU which has the potential to become the world’s most far-reaching free trade agreement in history.
It is important that Denmark exploits the strength of the European partnership and uses the EU to continue to fight for free trade and open competition.
Denmark’s success and prosperity is based on the fact that we have been able to grasp opportunities abroad and generate growth and jobs at home. We need an open United States to come out fighting on the same side as us.
Photo: Sif Meincke
Karsten Dybvad is the director general of the Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri – DI), an advocacy group representing some 10,000 Danish companies. This piece was originally published on DI's website and has been republished with permission.