Alas, poor Warrick

BRIAN AUNSPACH thought he had a job for life. After six years at a smelter owned by Alcoa, America’s largest aluminium company, his work was hard but the benefits decent. Warning signs came with crashing aluminium prices in the summer of 2015 and murmurings about unfair Chinese competition. Then reality hit: in January 2016 Alcoa announced the smelter’s closure. Around 600 people lost their jobs.

The events of 2016, from Brexit to Donald Trump’s election, were widely seen as a backlash against globalisation. The Warrick smelter in Indiana, which shut amid “challenging market conditions”, was perceived to be a victim of free trade. And the likes of Mr Aunspach, an American displaced by trade, are the objects of keen attention from wonks as well as politicians.

His is an old problem, with old solutions. Since 1962 America has earmarked funding to help people adjust to trade-related shocks. Trade-Adjustment Assistance (TAA)...Continue reading