President Trump continues to advance free trade
Step by step, President Donald J. Trump is solidifying his place in history as one of the greatest free-trade presidents of all time.
Contrary to what talking heads on the cable news circuit ruthlessly proclaim, President Trump is not a protectionist. He’s a self-proclaimed free-trader who, at the G7 summit, called for the elimination of all domestic and international trade barriers because he believes that open markets encourage social cooperation between nations, promoting prosperity and economic growth while deterring war and devastation.
And when the president believes in something, he goes all in for it. There is no room for half-measures. That’s why he has been so intent on ripping up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): No agreement would be preferable to the status quo of managed deals written by elitists, for elitists.
Historically, true fiscal conservatives have shared the president’s abhorrence for international backroom deal-making cloaked under the guise of free trade. As notated by the free-market Mises Institute, even the renowned economist Murray Rothbard once pointed out that, “The folks who have brought us NAFTA and presume to call it ‘free trade’ are the same people who call government spending ‘investment,’ taxes ‘contributions,’ and raising taxes ‘deficit reduction.’ ”
The crony deal in question, NAFTA, was crafted by the Clinton administration and agreed to by establishment Republicans, and it is riddled with special favors that put corporate lobbyists, not American workers, first.
Anyone who bothers to read the deal crafted more than 20 years ago can see that, rather than promoting real open markets, the agreement is chock full of protectionist deck-rigging for favored industries – everything free-traders denounce, bundled together under a free-trade banner.
In fact, one leadership aide heavily involved in the passage of Clinton-era trade agreements told me that the White House and Congress had “put out the red light,” because if one needed a protectionist measure for their district or a campaign contributor to be imposed in the faux trade agreement, they could receive other members’ support in return for a quid-pro-quo pork-barrel project or special favor.
In comes President Trump who, as a businessman, understands the establishment’s free-trade mirage better than most. While past administrations sacrificed America’s economic power on the altar of these appalling international agreements, the current White House pushes allies and enemies alike to eliminate poorly crafted provisions and ensure America is in a better competitive position.
Unlike past presidents, President Trump realizes that this overarching goal of removing all domestic and international trade barriers cannot be achieved through pontificating about open markets while sitting with one’s arms folded. It requires creating an open, productive dialogue with foreign diplomats – one that is fostered by the fine balancing act of talking tough while remaining cordial and keeping America’s ears and arms open.
As we’ve seen over the last week, President Trump’s free-trade strategy has already paid dividends.
Last week, the president was all smiles in New York with South Korean President Moon Jae-in as he signed a revised copy of the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) that removed needless international regulations on American automakers, increased U.S. exports, and reduced prospective tariff barriers – a win for not only these two countries but the global economy at large.
However, perhaps the biggest reward of the agreement with President Moon Jae-in was how it added severe international pressure on Canada and Mexico to follow suit and come to terms with President Trump on a NAFTA replacement before the fast-approaching deadline.
True to form, just one week later, the White House, with hours to spare, did what many in the media said would be impossible: successfully scrapped the Clinton-era NAFTA deal and signed a fairer, freer alternative.
The new deal, called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), marks yet another campaign pledge kept by the promise-keeping president and a historic win for the American economy, increasing exports for American farmers, reducing tariffs and eliminating other forms of protectionism that harm American workers, raise prices and run the division of labor amuck.
While corporate press releases and Washington Post articles may continue to downplay the administration’s recent achievements, the White House is rightfully wearing their critiques with a badge of honor. Lobbyists’ and mainstream media reporters’ opposition to USMCA is a testament to its strength, for Rothbard once warned that “if authentic free trade ever looms on the policy horizon, there’ll be one sure way to tell: the government/media/big-business complex will oppose it tooth and nail.”
The special interests can continue condemning the White House for removing their crony giveaways and subsidies, but it won’t stop the administration from fighting for better trade deals until they are no longer needed because of the complete elimination of all tariffs and duties, both at home and abroad.
On his inauguration day, President Trump pledged to transfer power from Washington, D.C., and give it back to the people. This has been the administration elected by and for the blue-collar worker from day one, and, as evidenced through these major working-class economic victories, that’s not going to change anytime soon.
Corey R. Lewandowski (@CLewandowski_) served as a campaign manager to Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States. He is co-author of “Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story of his Rise to the Presidency,” and senior adviser to the Great America Committee, Vice President Mike Pence‘s political action committee.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.