by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
After President Trump’s nearly three years in the White House, we can begin to decipher the general outlines of a trade strategy. While moving in the right direction, making up for years of inattention and complacency with regard to the abuse of global rules by China and others, the inconsistent and heavy-handed approach employed by the president threatens to undermine the open-trade-based global economic order, and the robust growth of the American economy that has resulted from his more-consistent tax, regulatory, and energy policies. Indeed, the vacillation and unpredictability of Trump’s trade policy have raised economic uncertainty to its highest levels since the 2008 recession, which in turn has weakened investment, employment gains, and market confidence. Even though critics from Europe, former U.S. government officials, and card-carrying free-market purists pine for a return to some aspirational “liberal, rules-based order,” what is really needed is a much more determined and consistent critique of those countries most responsible for undermining the order that actually does reign, and a clearer concept of the importance of trade strategy to strengthening national security, including long-term economic security.
The most important Trump trade initiative is certainly taking on the long-neglected task of challenging China’s systematic disregard of international rules and the basics of fair, reciprocal trade.