Trump May Not Know the Details, But Open Trade Opens Opportunities for Americans

Anyone who argus the president of the United States doesn't know what he is talking about on trade got fresh evidence from an unlikely source recently: the Donald himself. At a fundraiser on Wednesday the president was caught saying that he made up facts about a trade deficit with Canada when he met that nation's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.In a world where facts matter, the president's comments might undercut his case for upending long-standing trade deals such as NAFTA. After all, that case is predicated on the belief that tariffs are needed because the U.S. is getting killed by trade deficits. In fact, the U.S. does a healthy and profitable trade with Canada and, if you measures services and other economic activity, actually runs a trade surplus with our northern friends.But when it comes to trade, the battle is larger than the internal logic of the president's argument. The tariffs on steel (25 percent) and aluminum (10 percent) the president imposed recently are an opening gambit to recast the U.S. approach to international trade, to make protectionism a central plank of American economic policy. And in that larger battle it will be interesting to know whether Republicans, who have long stood for reducing barriers to trade, will now push back. Will free traders now freely object and say tariffs are terrible economic policy? Free traders certainly have a lot of ammunition, if they care to use it. For example, in announcing the tariffs, Trump said they would help steel companies become "a lot bigger again." But evidence suggests steelmakers were growing before these tariffs were announced. The industry added 8,000 jobs from January to 2017 to January 2018. And 70 percent of all the steel purchased for use in the U.S. is already produced here.What's more, the steel industry employs approximately 140,000 people. That's a fraction of other industries that rely on steel and aluminum. The aerospace industry employs 2.5 million, construction and manufacturing companies employ 17 million, and the auto industry employs 7 million. Upending the tariffs would help protect these jobs.Congress can pass legislation overriding the president, and more than a few members of Congress have spoken out. Before the tariffs kicked in, Kevin Brady, R-Texas, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee released a letter signed by 107 Republicans urging the president not to go forward . Senator Ted Cruz called the tariffs "a mistake." Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona introduced legislation to block the tariffs. And Senator Mike Lee of Utah introduced a bill that would reassert Congressional authority on tariffs.Many Texans chair House committees — including Lamar Smith, Kevin Brady, Pete Sessions, Michael McCaul, Jeb Hensarling, Mac Thornberry and Mike Conaway — and could be influential on this issue. Ultimately, this is a fight over our economic future and which policies are most likely to produce broad-based prosperity. The president may not know the details, but open trade opens opportunities for Americans, too. What's your view?Got an opinion about this issue? Send a letter to the editor, and you just might get published.  Continue reading...

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