The below article was submitted on behalf of the National Retail Federation (NRF):
In addition to the large number of American jobs that depend on imports, imports also provide substantial benefits to American families. The retail industry is a good example of how this works.
As a result of the highly-efficient import operations and global supply chains, retailers have been able to lower significantly the cost of sourcing a wide range of consumer products. An intensely-competitive industry, retailers pass these cost savings on to their customers – working American families – by offering lower prices, better selection, and quality. As a result, American families' spending dollars go much further in being able to purchase the products that they need and want. As a percentage of a family's total income, the cost of food and consumer goods is significantly lower today than 50 years ago.
Thanks to imports, American families also have greater choice and access to much wider selection of products than was the case just a few decades ago. For example, they can get fresh fruit, produce, and flowers in the dead of winter. When severe weather ravaged agriculture in Texas and the Mid-West, imports guaranteed that food remained affordable for American families. Imports have also given Americans access to the best and most innovative consumer products (e.g., flat-screen TVs and computers) at prices that have steadily fallen every year. The end result is that imports have been a significant factor in a steadily-improving standard of living for all Americans.
Conversely, policies to restrict or block imports hurt ordinary people. Restricting imports undermines free markets by placing the government in the position of dictating to its people what products they will be allowed to buy, in what quantities, and at what price. The tools governments use to restrict and block imports – high tariffs and other trade barriers – are essentially hidden taxes that create artificial shortages and significantly higher prices. Frequently, the most highly-restricted products are food and basic consumer goods, like shoes and clothing. Consequently, the poor, who spend a much higher portion of their income on these essential products, are the most adversely impacted by anti-import policies. Thus, while "fairness" is often raised as a defense for import restrictions, it is clear that trade restrictions against imports can have fundamentally unfair consequences.