Earlier this week, the Trump campaign released a white paper written by senior policy adviser Peter Navarro to elaborate and quantify the candidate’s economic plan. The goal of the paper is to explain how Donald Trump’s promises to renegotiate trade agreements and raise tariffs will promote economic growth and raise revenue for the government.
The plan betrays embarrassing ignorance of how trade negotiations work and a farcically simplistic and erroneous understanding of economics. In essence, the plan justifies Trump’s policies by reimagining how the world works.
Trump’s entire view of trade and its impact on the U.S. economy is wrong. He believes that trade is good for the United States only if we export more than we import and that trade relations are a contest between countries, which we are losing because they sell more stuff to us than we sell to them. He claims to be the tough-guy who will the save the American economy from shrewd foreign cheaters and the inept government officials who let them beat us.
Since that’s not how things work in the real world, he has to rely on falsehoods and bad economics to justify disastrous policies. This new white paper is just a continuation of that tactic.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. If you think I’m being too harsh or would like to learn more about the “Trump Trade Doctrine” and what’s wrong with it, I recommend you read lengthier condemnations from experts who have called the plan’s analysis “truly disappointing,” “not only wrong, but foolish,” “magical thinking,” “a complete mess,” and the sort of thing “that would get you flunked out of an AP economics class.”
Bill Watson is a trade policy analyst with Cato’s Herbert A Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies. His research focuses on U.S. trade remedy policies, disguised protectionism, and the institutional aspects of global trade liberalization. He manages Free Trade, Free Markets: Rating the Congress, Cato’s online database that tracks votes by Congress and its individual members on bills and amendments affecting the freedom of Americans to trade and invest in the global economy. Watson received a BA in political science from Texas Christian University, a JD from Tulane University Law School, and an LLM in international and comparative law from the George Washington University Law School.
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