President Trump won the 2016 election promising to renegotiate outdated trade deals that have outsourced American jobs and capital to foreign countries, which often have higher trade barriers or weaker labor and environmental standards than the United States. These unfair advantages benefit not only adversarial Communist China, with imperial ambitions, but also the European Union, Mexico, Japan, and other countries the United States counts as allies.
Unlike our own leaders—who seem to be stuck in a post-World War II era mindset where the United States helped to rebuild Europe, Japan, and recovering colonies—leaders abroad understand times have changed. Wealthy and powerful “developing” countries continue to benefit from generous U.S. foreign aid and market access but rarely reciprocate. Instead, in the socialist EU, where rules and regulations strangle domestic innovation, the bureaucracy also weaponizes them against American competition.
While we argue here about whether Google and Amazon are monopolies, no such Internet giants exist in Europe. Like socialists in our own country, EU bureaucrats’ sole means of competition seems to be high taxes and multi-billion-dollar legal penalties, the same mentality that prevents former start-ups like Google and Amazon from starting in the first place. Tariffs on American manufactures and agricultural goods are higher in Europe, and nearly insurmountable in China.
Taking socialism a step further, China’s Communist government massively subsidizes companies in competition with our own, and commands a labor force that’s virtually enslaved. Its government spies and steals to acquire technology its own top-down economy could never develop, and quickly applies those stolen ideas to military purposes. Chinese subsidies, in effect a form of state ownership, target U.S. industries, everything from steel to microchips, critical to our national security.
For many voters, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been of particular concern, partly because the idea of “open borders” coincided with a surge of illegal immigration from Mexico. The decades-old agreement, just like manufacturing outsourced to China, may have lowered prices for U.S. consumers, but for the millions who have lost their jobs to cheap foreign labor and Chinese trade abuses, lower prices mean little. My constituents in Tennessee prefer paychecks to public assistance.
Despite studies showing the theoretical benefits of free trade, economic and wage growth have been poor in recent decades. Government dependence is up. China’s trade war funds an increasingly assertive military whose main rival is the United States.
But until recently, establishment Washington—Democrats and Republicans alike—insisted the status quo was the best we could do. Donald Trump, a political outsider with a blue-collar attitude, understood what my friends and neighbors understood a long time ago: Our country can no longer afford to be the world’s candy store.
Fortunately, because of the president’s strong leadership, bipartisan agreement has coalesced around some of the most important trade issues confronting Americans. In fact, there has been a sea change in attitudes towards China. Congress has reversed severe cuts to the military under the Obama Administration. We are finally addressing corporate and campus espionage, forced technology transfers, and other problems that have become normal parts of doing business with China.
Farmers in my rural district support the president’s tough negotiations, which have yielded significant victories. Japan lifted a ban on U.S. beef. Argentina is buying more pork. For the first time in five years, China opened its market to American poultry. The recent “Phase One” deal with China increases exports among a range of U.S. products and services, and the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) widens access for U.S. dairy and wheat in Canada, as well as creates more auto-manufacturing jobs here at home.
My home state, an auto-manufacturing hub, stands to benefit immensely from the USMCA, replacing NAFTA, and fulfilling another promise President Trump made to voters. Our economy is already experiencing remarkable economic growth, however, because of tax cuts, deregulation, and American energy production. Wages and incomes are rising. The unemployment rate, fuel prices, and inflation remain low—disproving the warnings of so many so-called experts of a coming Armageddon under Donald Trump’s trade agenda.
As it turned out, the time was ripe for change, and it was everyday, normal people in places like Cleveland and Winchester, Tennessee—not the Ivy League professors who dismissed them—who had the right idea all along.