Throughout the Trump campaign and when talking about globalization in particular, Donald Trump has often referred to himself as a proponent of free trade, or a “free trader.” But most of his proposed policies and suggested trade agreements are decidedly anti-free trade. Most involve tariffs and government intervention, the opposite of free trade. In a speech this week he said ““Yes, I’m a free trader…Here’s my stance on trading: I want to make great deals for the United States.”
There are many instances where Donald Trump is anti-free trade. In nearly the same breath in that speech he suggested 35% tariff on imported Chinese goods, which would be disastrous for both the US and Chinese economy, not to mention the complete opposite of free trade. In the past he has suggested as high as a 45% tariff “The 45% tariff is a threat. It was not a tax, it was a threat,” Trump said in a March GOP debate. “It will be a tax if they don’t behave. Take China as an example. I have many friends, great manufacturers, they want to go into China. They can’t. China won’t let them. We talk about free trade. It’s not free trade; it’s stupid trade. China dumps everything that they have over here. No tax, no anything. We can’t get into China. The best manufacturers, when they get in, they have to pay a tremendous tax. The 45% is a threat that if they don’t behave, we will tax you. It doesn’t have to be 45, it could be less. But it has to be something because our country and our trade and our deals and most importantly our jobs are going to hell.”
Trump also hates NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Clinton era bill that reduced regulation on trade between Mexico, Canada and the US. “I think NAFTA has been a disaster. I think our current deals are a disaster” Trump told CNN. “I’m a free trader. The problem with free trade is, you need smart people representing you. We have the greatest negotiators in the world, but we don’t use them. We use political hacks and diplomats. We use the wrong people. Mexico is smart; they have out-negotiated us to a fare-thee-well. They’re going to be the capital of automobiles pretty soon, the way they’re going.” Last week he said “NAFTA was the worst trade deal in the history – it’s like – the history of this country,” a sentiment he has shared in almost every speech he has given since becoming a Presidential hopeful.
Trump is against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal similar to NAFTA with 11 nations around the Pacific Ocean. Trump often equates this agreement with China and currency manipulation, even though China is not a part of the TPP. “The TPP is horrible deal,” Trump said in a GOP debate. “It’s a deal that was designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone.” Well, it isn’t as China is not a part of the deal. Despite Trump’s complete ignorance of the particulars of the deal, or even the basics like which countries are involved, he still opposes it. Trump often attacks Hillary Clinton’s support of it, even though she no longer supports it.
Trump continues to contradict himself on his stance on free trade. He must like the sound of “free trade,” but really seems to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what the phrase means. “Why are we striking trade agreements with countries we already have agreements with? Why is there no effort to make sure we have fair trade instead of ‘free’ trade that isn’t free to Americans?” Trump told Breitbart earlier this year. “Why do we not have accompanying legislation that will punish countries that manipulate their currencies to seek unfair advantage in trade arrangements? Why has the Congress not addressed prohibitive corporate tax rates and trade agreements that continue to drain dollars and jobs from America’s shores?”
Read Donald Trump’s Speech on Trade