A key economic focus of the Trump administration has been renegotiating trade agreements like NAFTA that are perceived as disadvantageous to the U.S. There is always room to improve and update these agreements, due to globalization and technological trends as well as structural changes to the economy.
However, by eventually shifting to a more open immigration framework the U.S. can kill two birds with one stone: it can start to address its undocumented immigration problem, and improve the competitiveness of U.S. trade. While the current policy debate in Washington seems to be moving in the opposite direction, this route is worth considering for the long term as part of broader immigration reform.
Two of the administration's central policy objectives are to improve trade balances with countries like China and Mexico, and to regain control of illegal migration. What is not often realized is that opening the border to legal migration and simultaneously strengthening U.S. legal immigration policy can help the U.S. improve its trade accounts. The reason is that restrictions on international labor flows can push trade and jobs out of the U.S. as they increase production costs and reduce the international competitiveness of U.S. exports.
Immigrants at the high end of the skill spectrum, foreign-born scientists and entrepreneurs, have historically been instrumental in the maintenance of American strengths such as technological edge, which has resulted in trillions of dollars of technology revenues overseas for U.S. companies. Overly restricting inflows of this talent pool works against the U.S.'s comparative advantages. Visas for highly skilled workers, such as H1-B, should be significantly increased above current caps and their maximum renewability extended beyond the current seven years.