The Corner

The Trade War is Coming

One notable thing about Trump’s inaugural address is that it seemed more explicit about his views on trade than he usually is. Here is the passage:

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.

The only way this could have been more explicit is the addition of an -ism: 

Protectionism will lead to great prosperity and strength.

Usually, Trump just talks in terms of cutting better deals; this was a more fundamental statement. It, together with what we’ve seen over the last few months, makes me believe that we will see some sort of trade war–or battles–in the early-going here. Whereas a bunch of Trump’s picks are conventional Republicans with views in tension with his–General Mattis is exhibit A–Trump’s picks in the area of trade agree with him 100 percent and are fully committed on the issue. And I think Trump almost has to follow through on his repeated threats to impose some tariffs. If he doesn’t, he is going to lose credibility, when a key part of his economic strategy is using his bully pulpit to push companies away from off-shoring. If a year or six months from now corporate America has concluded that he’s a paper tiger, Trump’s jawboning will lose force. Finally, the president has a lot of unilateral authority in this area, so it doesn’t matter so much if Paul Ryan and congressional Republicans are opposed to new tariffs. 

Now, maybe the Trump team really does just want to rattle some cages in China and Mexico to get better deals and concessions, but I would brace for something bigger and more ambitious. 

(By the way, Derek Scissors of the American Enterprise Institute has an excellent and informative piece on how to think about trade with China in our new issue.)

Rich Lowry — Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: 

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

John Brennan’s Bad Behavior

My Bloomberg View colleague Eli Lake is right about this: "[W]hen Brennan uses his authority as a former CIA director to launch flimsy attacks on the president's legitimacy, he validates Trump's claim that the intelligence agencies are biased against him." Over the last two years the president's critics have ... Read More
White House

Bill Clinton Redux

Stormy Daniels could have stepped right out of the 1990s. She would have been a natural in a Bill Clinton scandal, and, in fact, all the same means would have been used against her. Donald Trump’s tactics in these cases are almost indistinguishable from the Clintons’. The effort to shut down the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

California’s Pro-Nuclear Renegade

If California’s upcoming gubernatorial race gets decided solely by money, Michael Shellenberger doesn’t have a chance. The latest campaign filings show that Shellenberger, an environmentalist from Berkeley, has about $37,000 in cash on hand. The frontrunner in the June 5 California primary, Lieutenant ... Read More

Encouraging Signs in Iraq

Last year, relations between the Iraqi central government and the Kurds reached what was possibly an all-time low when the Kurds held an independence referendum in which 93 percent of voters opted to secede. The timing was no coincidence: Iraqi forces had retreated from Kurdish territory in 2014 as the Islamic ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Do Not Congratulate

Do you want some good news out of the gargantuan budget bill now making its way through Congress? Buried among the mountains of pork and assorted unmentionables, there is one random provision I really like. It requires the Congressional Research Service -- which does a huge amount of very valuable policy research ... Read More
Film & TV

Superannuated ‘Idol’

In the pilot episode of Fox’s American Idol, Simon Cowell defined the show’s thesis: “We are going to tell people who cannot sing and have no talent that they have no talent. And that never makes you popular.” The show’s producers and its three judges -- Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson -- kept ... Read More