Less than a week after taking office, President Trump is set to sign his first round of executive orders, including one that would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. In fact, as early as today he plans on making the topic of free trade a focus, as a senior White House official mentioned that the president’s “first executive action on Monday will be to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” The focus on free trade goes hand in hand with some of the other things Trump wants to focus on this week, such as jobs and national security.
So where does President Trump stand on free trade? Well, anyone who followed the election knows that Trump spoke out against NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the latter of which has been scrapped completely. He even mentioned during the campaign that “NAFTA was the worst trade deal in the history of the country, and called the TPP a rape of our country.”
As for his administration’s actual plan? Well, according to the White House website, the administration will “push for trade policies that will be implemented by and for the people and will put America first.” What does this mean? Well, for starters it means that there will likely be a focus on cracking down on free trade agreements that hurt U.S. workers. After all, U.S. workers, especially those in blue-collar towns and cities, have suffered under agreements like NAFTA and “have watched their factories close and good-paying jobs move overseas,” while our trade deficit has skyrocketed. The Trump administration wants to work on improving and renegotiating our agreements to bring jobs back to U.S. workers. According to the website, with “tough and fair agreements, international trade can be used to grow our economy, return millions of jobs to America’s shores, and revitalize our nation’s suffering communities.”
A good starting point to accomplish this is to ensure that any “new trade deals are in the interests of American workers.” As for our existing deals, like NAFTA, the Trump administration intends to withdraw altogether if “our partners refuse a renegotiation that gives American workers a fair deal.”
So it would seem as if Trump’s new trade route will take America down the path of protectionism, something that has actually “become more popular as American workers worry about losing jobs to other countries.” Just how worried are Americans about the loss of jobs to other countries because of free trade? Well, according to Pew Research statistics, an estimated “89% of Americans said they thought that the loss of US jobs to China was a somewhat or very serious issue.” On top of that, only “46% of Americans” think NAFTA is actually good for America.
These concerns over trade and U.S. jobs aren’t unfounded, though. A paper published in 2016 by economists David Autor, David Dorn, and Gordon Hanson, found that “increased trade with China did, in fact, cause some problems for US workers.” It should be noted, though, that trade isn’t the only thing that impacts jobs here at home. That being said, it will be interesting to see how else Trump plans on saving or creating jobs for U.S workers during the duration of his presidency.