Sweatshops Help Poor Workers
The perhaps most curious and absurd defense of protectionism comes from certain leftists, who argues that imports of goods produced by low income workers shouldn't be stopped because it supposedly hurts us, but because it hurts the workers producing the goods, who are being "exploited" because of global capitalism. Some of those advancing that argument don't actually believe in it, and simply uses it because it sounds nobler than wanting to shield American workers from competition. Which is why they say they push for "fair labor and environmental standards", which in practice means that those who don't live up to those though standards should be prevented from exporting to America (or whatever country it is that implements these standards) But there are many leftists that actually believe in this.
Which is why this article by Nicholas Kristof is important. It points out that while sweatshops may not appear good for us, they are in fact a lot better than the alternative for those that work there. And it points out that if you want to improve conditions for workers in poor countries, you should buy more of their products, because that will increase demand for workers and so enable workers to demand better pay and/or working conditions. The rapid wage increases in China in recent years are a good example of this mechanism in practice.