International trade was never much of an issue in presidential campaigns until Donald Trump.
In 2016, he made trade a key plank in his economic nationalism platform, denouncing America’s biggest free trade pacts and promising a whole new way of doing business with the rest of the world.
Trade is a big deal again in the upcoming election, and it’s largely over the escalating battle with China, until recently America’s biggest trading partner.
Both Trump and his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, agree the U.S.-China trading relationship isn’t working to America’s advantage. The difference lies in the way they view the problem and their approaches for addressing it.
At the core of President Trump’s trade policy has been his focus on America’s long-running trade deficit with the rest of the world — and doing whatever he can to reverse it.
His main tool: Slap tariffs on countless goods, against allies and rival nations alike, particularly China, in an attempt to curb imports, increase domestic production and pressure trading partners to buy more American products. But by the trade balance measure, Trump’s tariffs haven’t worked: The U.S. trade deficit is as large as ever, even this year as the pandemic has shrunk imports and exports.
Trump’s approach to trade has been guided by his “America First” foreign policy. He has eschewed multilateral trade deals — he withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership immediately after