To combat these misperceptions, MacLennan said political leaders must understand that:

  • “Trade is a net job creator.
  • “Today, more than half of the US manufacturing workforce depends on exports.
  • “And that nearly half of all exports of US-manufactured goods are sold to the 20 countries that have eliminated barriers through free trade agreements.”

Citing US-China trade as an example, MacLennan noted that as per capita consumption of US beef has declined, imports from China have risen, sustaining total demand. China also has been a growing importer of soy products.

“All of this makes sense through the lens of comparative economics,” he said. “But we tend to forget that it is not just about economics, it’s also about sustainability. Farmers in China don't have the same access to land and water that we have in the United States.”

Beyond making sure policy makers are better informed, MacLennan said the public at large needs to better understand the realities of trade.

“That means working to restore public confidence in what trade actually can accomplish – and clearly dispelling any unrealistic expectations that erode that confidence,” he said.

Such information efforts need to be accompanied by policies that effectively help workers and families adversely affected by trade.

“According to the International Institute of Economics, the United States has gained $1 trillion from globalization versus roughly $50 billion in adjustment losses,” MacLennan said. “We should be thinking of how this 20 to 1 benefit/cost ratio could be used to create a new workforce paradigm – one that takes into account the constant change and disruption that will come from technology, automation and innovation.”

For its part, Cargill will advocate for comprehensive trade agreements such as NAFTA, TPP and others, MacLennan said. He noted 1 in every 10 acres on US farms is planted to products exported to Canada and Mexico. He noted that the food and agriculture sector support 17 million full- and part-time jobs in the United States.

MacLennan concluded by advocating for “a new workforce paradigm.”

 “The public and private sectors need to invest in educating this generation of workers and the next,” he said. “We need to invest in lifelong learning for all our workers in order to adapt to the constant pace of change. We need to start early and strengthen education in important disciplines such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – the STEM disciplines.” 

He said Cargill was investing $13 million in STEM programs this year and also in programs for students in fields of agriculture and food.

“Let’s collectively stand up for trade,” he said. “Let’s stay globally connected and resist the currents of protectionism. Let’s address the gaps and take tangible steps to build a more profitable, peaceful and connected world.”