Book: Trade Is Not A Four Letter Word: How Six Everyday Products Make the Case for Trade

Author: Fred Hochberg

Review by: Charles Shapiro, a native Atlantan and retired U.S. diplomat, is the president of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta and a senior lecturer at the Robinson College of Business.

Charles Shapiro

I am a trade wonk in a country that has turned against trade. Both Joe Biden and Donald Trump campaigned against trade agreements. I take my hat off to Trump, who decried NAFTA as the worst agreement ever negotiated, slapped some makeup on it and renamed it USMCA, and, voila! convinced his supporters that it was the best agreement ever. (Note to self: Never run for public office.) 

In January, Fred Hochberg, the former chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States from 2009-2017 and former CEO of the Lillian Vernon catalogue business, released this delightful book explaining trade in terms your mom’s next-door neighbor could easily understand.   

In May, the World Affairs Council of Atlanta hosted Mr. Hochberg on a Zoom program, and I assigned his book to my Executive MBA class in Global Markets at the Robinson College of Business (which by the way is a darn good class in the best EMBA program in the Southeast U.S.) 

In the council’s interview hosted by Craig Lesser (watch it in full on YouTube here, or read Global Atlanta’s summary), Mr. Hochberg explained in fascinating detail how misconceptions about trade make it a scapegoat for all kinds of issues, economic and beyond.  

Fred is a great salesman, and he uses examples drawn from his experience both in the private sector and in his eight years at EXIM. He is a fellow trade wonk, but unlike me he is neither tedious nor pedantic.  

In the introduction, Fred explicitly states his biases as a Democrat and an Obama appointee, going on to demolish eight of the “most wrong-headed, infuriating, counterproductive fallacies” about trade. We all believe at least one or two of them: He got me on #4 “Trade Agreements Are About Jobs” and #6 “Trade Is Win Win.” 

Fred uses six products to make his case that trade is not a four-letter word: the taco salad, the Honda Odyssey, the banana, the iPhone, degrees from U.S. universities and Game of Thrones.  

I won’t spoil the plot, but here is one juicy factoid: The Japanese-owned Honda Odyssey minivan has the highest American content of any car manufactured in the U.S., My EMBA students were thoroughly delighted, confounded and challenged by these six products, and you will be too.   

Check out Trade Is Not a Four Letter Word. And check out the YouTube of the World Affairs Council Program with Fred Hochberg. He is fascinating and his book is a delight.

Editor’s notes: Global Atlanta will receive a 10 percent commission on any purchase of this book through the links on this page. also contributes 10 percent of the purchase price of each book to independent booksellers around the United States.

Each year, Global Atlanta asks influential readers and community leaders to review the most impactful book they read during the course of the year. This endeavor has continued annually since 2010. 

See last year’s full list of books on BookShop here, and all 2020 reader picks here. 

All books were chosen and reviews written independently, with only mild editing from our staff.