Donald Trump has just delivered his major speech on trade policy, at an aluminum plant in Monessen, PA.
Hillary Clinton recently gave a long speech attacking Trump on many things. In it, she retreated from her recent feint against the Trans-Pacific Partnership and attacked Trump for "protectionism," so it seems the divide between them on the issue remains clear.
Here are the key excerpts from Trump's speech:
"America has lost nearly one-third of its manufacturing jobs since 1997 - even as the country has increased its population by 50 million people.
At the center of this catastrophe are two trade deals pushed by Bill and Hillary Clinton:
First, the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.
Second, China's entry into the World Trade Organization.
NAFTA was the worst trade deal in history, and China's entrance into the World Trade Organization has enabled the greatest jobs theft in history.
It was Bill Clinton who signed NAFTA in 1993, and Hillary Clinton who supported it.
It was also Bill Clinton who lobbied for China's disastrous entry into the World Trade Organization, and Hillary Clinton who backed that terrible agreement.
Then, as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton stood by idly while China cheated on its currency, added another trillion dollars to our trade deficits, and stole hundreds of billions of dollars in our intellectual property...
It was also Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, who shoved us into a job-killing deal with South Korea in 2012.
As reported by the Economic Policy Institute in May, this deal doubled our trade deficit with South Korea and destroyed nearly 100,000 American jobs.
As Bernie Sanders said, Hillary Clinton 'Voted for virtually every trade agreement that has cost the workers of this country millions of jobs.' "
The above is all sadly true. He went on,
"The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the greatest danger yet.
The TPP would be the death blow for American manufacturing.
It would give up all of our economic leverage to an international commission that would put the interests of foreign countries above our own.
It would further open our markets to aggressive currency cheaters. It would make it easier for our trading competitors to ship cheap subsidized goods into U.S. markets - while allowing foreign countries to continue putting barriers in front of our exports.
The TPP would lower tariffs on foreign cars, while leaving in place the foreign practices that keep American cars from being sold overseas. The TPP even created a backdoor for China to supply car parts for automobiles made in Mexico.
The agreement would also force American workers to compete directly against workers from Vietnam, one of the lowest wage countries on Earth.
Not only will the TPP undermine our economy, but it will undermine our independence.
The TPP creates a new international commission that makes decisions the American people can't veto.
These commissions are great Hillary Clinton's Wall Street funders who can spend vast amounts of money to influence the outcomes.
It should be no surprise then that Hillary Clinton, according to Bloomberg, took a 'leading part in drafting the Trans-Pacific Partnership.'
She praised or pushed the TPP on 45 separate occasions, and even called it the 'gold standard.'
Hillary Clinton was totally for the TPP just a short while ago, but when she saw my stance, which is totally against, she was shamed into saying she would be against it too - but have no doubt, she will immediately approve it if it is put before her, guaranteed."
Here's Trump's actual specific agenda on trade:
"Here are seven steps I would pursue right away to bring back our jobs:
One: I am going to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has not yet been ratified.
Two: I'm going to appoint the toughest and smartest trade negotiators to fight on behalf of American workers.
Three: I'm going to direct the Secretary of Commerce to identify every violation of trade agreements a foreign country is currently using to harm our workers. I will then direct all appropriate agencies to use every tool under American and international law to end these abuses.
Four: I'm going tell our NAFTA partners that I intend to immediately renegotiate the terms of that agreement to get a better deal for our workers. And I don't mean just a little bit better, I mean a lot better. If they do not agree to a renegotiation, then I will submit notice under Article 2205 of the NAFTA agreement that America intends to withdraw from the deal.
Five: I am going to instruct my Treasury Secretary to label China a currency manipulator. Any country that devalues their currency in order to take advantage of the United States will be met with sharply
Six: I am going to instruct the U.S. Trade Representative to bring trade cases against China, both in this country and at the WTO. China's unfair subsidy behavior is prohibited by the terms of its entrance to the WTO, and I intend to enforce those rules.
Seven: If China does not stop its illegal activities, including its theft of American trade secrets, I will use every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes, including the application of tariffs consistent with Section 201 and 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 and Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962."
The above agenda is not crazy. It is, in fact, fairly standard trade-hawk stuff, and would be different from previous trade hawks only in that Trump appears set to actually do all these things, rather than just talk about them. These are all solid, meaningful actions, which have been discussed in knowledgeable circles for years, not impulsive daydreams: the man has been doing his homework. They are all all designed to happen within existing law: even his mention of withdrawing from NAFTA carefully reminds everyone that the treaty itself contains a withdrawal provision. There's no wild talk of kicking over the existing global trading system by storming out of the WTO. He understands that chaos wouldn't be good for our economy.
That being said, there's the obvious hint that a President Trump could hypothetically up the ante if our trading partners don't fall into line. For one thing, America can hypothetically withdraw from the WTO, just like from NAFTA, and Trump doesn't have to make that threat openly for it to be tacitly there. For another, the Section 201, 301, and 232 tariffs Trump mentions aren't quantitatively limited: they could, if things really got nasty, be big tariffs on major industries. So the message seems to be "I'm serious about trade reform, serious about not screwing it up, and I'm willing to play nice if other nations are. But if they're not, I'll escalate to whatever it takes to get this done."
Would this agenda actually solve America's trade crisis? Well, obviously the above steps are all ultimately quantitative in effect, so it would depend on how far they were pursued, but yes, these are the right measures to do the job. They're not the only possible measures - trade can be manipulated by a lot of different levers - but they're valid. This is not window dressing.
How far a hypothetical Trump administration would push, in a environment where Trump won't be king, merely a president subject to any number of political constraints from Congress on down, cannot be predicted outright. But it's obvious that a) this is one of his big priorities, on which he would spend serious political capital, and b) this agenda would be popular with the public, so Congress will feel a lot of pressure to go along.
How America's trading partners would react, is even less predictable. My own guess is that they'll recognize that the days of Uncle Sam playing Uncle Sucker are over, and strive to maintain as much stability in the global trading system as they can in a world in which the days of racking up huge surpluses against the U.S. are gone for good. They know they can't stop a truly determined United States from forcing its trade back into balance, they know an endless American deficit can't go on forever anyway, and they know that causing chaos by kicking up a futile fuss will be very expensive for them.
All in all, this is a winning proposal on trade.
Note: For readers new to my column, I am not a Trump supporter per se. Here's where I said nice things about polar opposite Bernie Sanders. If Hillary Clinton had a rational trade policy, I would praise it.