February 24, 2020

Who Will Save Free Trade?

“President Donald Trump’s new round of tariffs on Chinese goods is going into effect even as we speak. But the more Trump escalates his trade war, the more unpopular protectionism gets with American voters, especially Democratic ones. So all the Democratic presidential candidates are sprinting to put distance between their trade policies and Trump’s America Firstism, right? Wrong!

Indeed, the leading presidential contenders, Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), who are setting the tone for the rest of the pack, are functionally identical if not worse than Trump on this issue. And the reason is that they don’t think that average Democratic voters care enough about trade to punish them for their protectionism.

It seems like Trump’s trade bashing has done more to bring people around to the cause of free trade in two years than English political economist Adam Smith’s canonical defense in The Wealth of Nations did in nearly 250. Indeed, literally every time the “chosen one” saber-rattles against China, Americans become more positively disposed toward trade. The Chicago Council Survey found last year that support for trade among Americans had touched an all-time high with 82 percent of respondents saying it was good for the economy, 85 percent saying it was good for consumers like them, and 67 percent saying it was good for America. These findings were pretty much confirmed by a Pew Research poll last month that found that compared to two years ago when only 50 percent Americans overall believed that free trade was good for the country, now 65 percent think so.”

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