When talking trade, Trump should follow British PM Theresa May's lead
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As President TrumpDonald John TrumpStephen Miller: Trump to further crackdown on illegal immigration if he wins US records 97,000 new COVID-19 cases, shattering daily record Biden leads Trump by 8 points nationally: poll MORE welcomes UK Prime Minister Theresa May to the White House this Friday, his speechwriters should take note. Just last week, May delivered what may be one of the best economic policy speeches of this decade.

It was widely lauded in the financial press and the currency markets pushed the pound up 3 percent relative to the dollar.

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May’s peroration had the type of moving, even brilliant, rhetoric that May’s forerunner, Winston Churchill, used to move the people of Britain to seemingly impossible tasks.

 

May’s speech, for example, contained this gem:

“(History) will … judge us not only by the decision that we made, but by what we made of that decision.”

President Trump’s speech writers have yet to manifest that kind of skill at their craft.

But it’s not just the president’s writing staff who should look to May. He should look to borrow some of the prime minister’s policy and political skills, too, particularly her skill at confronting adversaries without being petulant.

Prime Minister May’s speech, delivered on January 17, delineated twelve principles she will pursue in negotiating Brexit under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, and made clear that certain positions are "non- negotiable".

EU “hard liners” were cautioned that if they succeeded in the talks, the UK could respond with “beggar thy neighbor” tax and industrial policies “that would attract the world's best companies and biggest investors”, at the expense of Britain’s EU counterparts.

Any agreed negotiation, May said, would be brought for vote for approval by Parliament, so that it was assured widespread national political support.

Brexit wasn’t to be a retrenchment or an exit from the global economy, the prime minister assured the markets. To the contrary, she hopes to renew and expand the UK’s globalist and trading tradition that dates to the 16th Century. May made clear that, while closing a window to the EU, she will open a door to the world:

"I want to remove as many barriers to trade as possible.

"And I want Britain to be free to establish our own tariff schedules at the World Trade Organization, meaning we can reach new trade agreements, not just with the European Union, but with old friends and new allies from outside Europe too.”

Speaking to education and immigration, May said she would “will go further to reform our schools to ensure every child has the knowledge and the skills they need to thrive in post-Brexit Britain.”

Most importantly for Britain, May promised the EU and UK stability and certainty by continuing to abide EU law as though it was UK law, as I predicted shortly after the Brexit vote.

President Trump can take some lessons from Prime Minister May.

First, Trump should clarify that his protectionism is a tactic to advance fair trade, not an end in itself.

May moved to assure the markets that she would continue EU rules while warning Brussels that a hard line on Brexit would have consequences.  

Trump’s aversion that “protection (of jobs, products and companies) will lead to great prosperity and strength” and that “we will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American” should be clarified so it echoes Peter Navarro, Trump’s leading trade advisor, who has written that protectionist tariffs are only a tactic in pursuit of global free trade, not an effort to close America off from the world.

Second, ensure that the Trump administration trade policy is supported by Congress by passing a “model” trade treaty to serve as a baseline of US trade treaty negotiations.

Just as Prime Minister May will submit her Brexit deal for Parliamentary support, President Trump should move to have Congress adopt a “model” trade treaty setting forth our principles on trade to restore the voice it has mostly lost with trade promotion authority – or “fast track”.

Fair trading nations will welcome the clarity of our position while mercantilist countries will know we’re closed to their exploitation and come to heel. Moreover, it will give the president a baseline for what Congress “is” and “is not” likely to support.  

Third, President Trump should emphasize that his trade policy is about protecting workers, not “jobs.”

Like May, President Trump should ensure that American youngsters – particularly in the inner cities and rural areas – obtain a sound, rigorous, high school education on par with the best of our global competitors to ensure they can adopt to a lifetime of changing skill sets instead of just “a job.”

He should support employer training and apprenticeships – common in Europe – among workers of every age, along with worker mobility (largely discouraged by delays in benefits coverage, costly non-deductible expenses for moving, and over-broad non-compete agreements), remote work and dependent contractors so that workers can more easily escape the limits of their wage and geography and even work for themselves.

Oscar Wilde wrote that Britain had “everything in common with America, … except, of course, language.”

With Britain at the precipice of Brexit negotiations, and the United States with the first populist president in living memory, we are more closely tied than we have been in decades, in both our policies and our politics.
Britain’s prime minister can provide lessons in both.

J.G. Collins is the Managing Director of the Stuyvesant Square Consultancy in New York. A “Never Trumper” during the 2016 election, he is a long-time critic of the bipartisan U.S. policy of unlimited free trade. He has previously written on U.S. trade policy for Forbes, The Daily Caller, and The American Conservative.


The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.