Through trade, businesses compete with one another for customers. This process lowers prices for consumers of all types and increases variety and choice. This makes us better off. The gains through trade so fully surround us in our homes and places of work that it is nearly impossible to point out an activity, good or service that is not a better value to consumers as a direct consequence of international trade.
Producers also benefit. Inputs are less expensive because of competition and “thick markets” with lots of participants due to more people consuming a good. We live in a golden age of choice and value, but why then do so many complain about competition?
Firms that cannot compete and workers with outdated skills fail more quickly in a world with trade. While this makes us far wealthier in the long run, those who do not adjust feel pain in the short run. Without trade, inefficient businesses and poorly trained workers muddle along a bit longer. With trade they must adapt. There is a special name for this process. It is called economic growth.
Places that have avoided trade (say India 1947 - 1990s or North Korea today) suffer dismal economic conditions. Furthermore, Americans are, and well should be, better at adapting than others. We each receive a whopping $110,000 public investment in education. It stands to reason that workers with this level of educational investment we should do well when compared to poor residents of China or India. Moreover, Americans should reflexively understand this. After all, the Commerce Clause in our Constitution makes us the oldest and largest, and therefore richest, free trade zone in the world.