Rhetorical Analysis on “The Truth about Trade”

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When things go downhill, we as humans tend to find a reason for it or blame something for it and this is true when it comes to more important subjects like the economy. During presidential elections, constant bashing of free trade led people to blame it as the cause for unemployment and a poor economy. Douglas A. Irwin, in “The Truth About Traded”, argues that free trade shouldn’t be considered a fall guy for how “poorly” the U.S. is doing by pointing out the benefits and the main culprit, technology. Irwin uses strong diction, counter arguments, research and statistics, and shines a light on what he believes to be the “truth” in order to help further argue his point. With these rhetorical techniques, Irwin is able to present himself as an outsider which relieves us of the thought that he is bias towards one side. This allows readers to trust his judgement on these fallacies which allows for a well planned argument around that trust.

Irwin, in a subtle way, suggests the idea that the critics of free trade are wrong through diction. When Irwin explains the actions and words of the presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, he uses quotation marks to his advantage. “The Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has railed against “disastrous” trade agreements . . . Republican Donald Trump complains that China, Japan, and Mexico are “killing” the United States . . . ” (84). The use of quotation mark around words like disastrous allows us to see that he doesn't believe it was disastrous which then introduces the idea that the critics may be wrong with saying it up front. Irwin also knocks down the ideas of the critics of free trade very straightforwardly with words like basic fallacies, long discredited, and grossly distorted. By using these words before certain points made by these critics, like “To make their case that trade isn’t working for the United States, critics invoke long-discredited indicators, such as . . .” (85), Irwin is able to have us feel like the critic are the ones trying to force an argument that they already loss at. By doing so, it implants the concept of false information into you and thus while you are reading, you will unconsciously recognize that information as false information. Irwins word choice is essentially starts to build a profile for the critics. Through subtle and non subtle statements, he paints the picture that its likely that the critics are wrong.

Making readers lose trust in what critics say is how Irwin beings his persuasion and this is done through counter statements to what critics say. He starts off with countering the root of the argument which is trade. Trump portrays trade as win or lose however he counters with, “Trade is actually a two-way street - the exchange of exports for imports - that makes efficient use of a country’s resource to increase its material welfare.” (85). While this counter may seem simple, it attacks the root of the argument by saying that right off the bat, they got the definition of what they are arguing about wrong which brings up a thought that their argument could be all wrong if they built it off that logic. After this, Trump compares the trade deficit from China to a business consistently losing money however Irwin counters this through “Australia has run current account deficits even longer than the United States has, and its economy is flourishing.” (86). By countering an argument with facts that are true and irrefutable, he is establishing credibility and because he uses Australia as an example, it makes it easy for readers to understand that debt isn’t necessarily bad because like the U.S, Australia is also a country . All of these counter arguments help to disprove the opposing view while supporting his own view and through this, the reader will be constantly reminded of right and wrong. Irwin consistently shows that critics are wrong and keeps adding on to it which makes it hard for readers not to at least think about the fact that critics maybe wrong.

The saying of numbers don’t lie is well known by most people and Irwin takes advantage of this by using statistics from research. Irwin starts with a very simple statistics of: “A February 2016 Gallup poll found that 58 percent of Americans consider foreign trade an opportunity for economic growth, and only 34 percent viewed it as a threat” (87). By showing us that majority of people consider trade a good thing through numbers, it makes it hard to refute. While maybe not his initial intention, this does have an effect of making readers question if the critics are right then since they are in the minority. Irwin also brings up his credibility by bringing up research from a Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University: “Productivity growth accounted for more than 85 percent of the job loss in manufacturing between 2000 and 2010 . . . Just 13 percent of the overall job loss resulted from trade” (88). His statistics help push the fact that trade isn’t the main reason for unemployment. Anyone can simply say that trade isn’t the main reason but when presented that technology is 85 percent of the reason and that trade is only 13, it allows the reader to realize that trade has a very minimal impact. Numbers are hard to refute and therefore builds a solid argument by making readers understand why Irwin is arguing what he is arguing.

A simple but important thing he does is to shine light on what the other side of the argument. Irwin points out the idea throughout the writing so that while discrediting the opposing side, his side of the argument will be there which will then would lead readers to his side. Irwin, before he starts to state what critics say, points out that, “root of anxieties over trade: the economic ladder that allowed previous generations of lower-skilled Americans to reach the middle class is broken” (85). While it might seem like he is just simply stating his point, it actually helps place that idea in the back of your head. With this in the back of your head, while you read through what critics say, you will be thinking about how that isn’t true even without him explaining because he already placed the thought in your head. Along with this, he also brings up how the Great Depression is a reason for this unemployment and debt issue because of its aftermath. This was a very important point to have light shined on it because the Great Depression is known by most people to be a dark time for the U.S. and so no matter who it is, it makes it hard to argue against and is a very sturdy stepping stone for proving innocence of trade. By shining light on his side of the argument, it keeps the thought of the “correct” side in our mind which makes us question the opposing side while he is also disproving the opposing side.

Irwin, with the use of these techniques to make the readers question what critics say while slowly making the readers to see his side of the story. The use of diction and counter arguments discredits the critics while the statistics and the truth shows his view but also disproves them. These rhetorical strategies that Irwin uses is very efficient in my opinion because we only have two options and by removing one of the options, even if your support for the other option isn’t that good, you will lean towards that one and feel that that option is well argued. While his argument works, I feel that he relied too heavily on shutting the opponents down and building his argument up that he didn’t see other options that he could have also done to help make his arguments even better.

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Rhetorical Analysis on “The Truth About Trade”. (2021, Mar 20). Retrieved March 2, 2024 , from

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