The Corner

Politics & Policy

The President Is ‘A Tariff Man’

That’s what he says, contradicting some of his fans who have been dubiously claiming that Trump is actually a crafty free-trader who is only using tariffs to force other countries to lower their barriers to our exports. In his mind, trade is a form of theft: “When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so.” It’s not like Trump has been keeping his views a secret, although as on any subject he sometimes says contradictory things. “Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength,” he said in his inaugural address. This is why I have, from the beginning, suggested that Trump would turn out to be a protectionist president: Like it or not, this is what he truly believes. On this subject he is not like Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, or Barack Obama, all of whom sometimes imposed tariffs to appease domestic constituencies, advance a broader objective of trade liberalization, or force a negotiation. For him, trade barriers are a positive good.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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