Trade, the Left, and Trump

While working in Washington during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, I was part of an effort to build a bipartisan coalition to reform American trade policy; or more precisely, formulate one. International trade was an issue that cut across party lines. Presidents of both parties favored "trade promotion" as an end in itself. Post-Cold War "globalists" -- backed by "transnational" corporations, persuaded them that the creation of social networks unencumbered by borders was the wave of the future. With "history at an end" there were no more security concerns to hem in markets or business dealings. And the old classical liberal notion that trade generated peace was given new life.

As a conservative, I knew whatever one said about history, things were going to continue to happen in recognizable ways. Bill Clinton proclaimed in 1998 that the Great Powers were no longer competing for wealth and territory. It was a doubtful claim at the time and is clearly not how to think of world affairs today. My part of the trade policy coalition was composed of national security Republicans. They did not want to see the outsourcing of strategic supply chains overseas which would make our defense industrial base vulnerable to disruption while transferring technology to rivals like China. Our partners on the left were labor Democrats who did not want to see American workers lose their jobs as factories closed in the Heartland. Mounting trade deficits meant that American money was not only creating jobs overseas but also building and sustaining industrial capacity that empowered the ambitions of foreign adversaries.

Winston Churchill warned against "building German industry with British and American money" when it would empower the Nazi regime; a warning equally valid for a China still run by the Communist Party. It had been fashionable for some time to claim that a more prosperous China would become a more liberal China. But that has not been the case and is no loner a tenable stance. President Xi Jinping's "China Dream" echoes too many of the themes of Hitler's Mein Kampf for anyone to rest easy.

One would think that Donald Trump, the first president of either party to take trade problems seriously, would have the old bipartisan coalition solidly in his corner. Bringing back manufacturing jobs that President Obama declared lost forever should rally the labor Democrats who had placed the welfare of workers above party loyalty in the past. It had been their votes in Congress that had denied a grant of "trade promotion authority" to their own President Clinton because they did not trust him to use it to protect the national interest. And they were right. Clinton helped create the World Trade Organization in 1995, based on the principle that governments "should not discriminate between its own and foreign products, services or nationals." Citizenship no longer mattered in a "global" economy. This idea has spread from trade to immigration, with so much influence on the left that most Democratic leaders have abandoned their protection of American workers from "cheap" foreign labor at home as well as overseas.

In the past, opposition to "free trade" among Republicans was the minority position despite the fact that the GOP had been born as the party of protection and had dominated politics during the growth of the U.S. into the world's largest manufacturing power from the Civil War through World War I. As the "arsenal of democracy" the U.S. won World War II and the Cold War. By recognizing the return of Great Power rivalry, President Trump has pulled the GOP back from the extreme laissez-faire attitude it had succumbed to during the fleeting post-Cold War euphoria. The actions taken to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and to end China's plunder of American technology have been based on national security concerns about sustaining a domestic industrial base capable of underpinning American preeminence in global politics.

It is the left side of the bipartisan trade reform coalition that has fallen apart. What had made bipartisanship possible had been a higher calling: national interest. Domestic business firms and their workers were all Americans struggling in common against foreign threats. The resurgence of a New Left that scoffs at the idea of American Greatness and equates nationalism with racism and imperialism finds working with a President committed to trade reform unthinkable if his name is Trump.

NAFTA had been the main target of the left half of the old coalition. President Trump made renegotiating it a top priority, producing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The new agreement includes improved rules of origin for automobiles, trucks, and other products; maintains protective tariffs on U.S.-made trucks; and disciplines currency manipulation. It expands market access for U.S. farmers and service providers and seeks to reduce the "cheap" labor advantage of Mexico. Yet, the left has been lobbying against ratification of USMCA for reasons that have nothing to do with American national interests. Indeed, their arguments run against them. A concise statement of their case was presented by Stan Greenberg in the Washington Post. Greenburg is a Democratic strategist and his op-ed was circulated by the Citizens Trade Campaign, a Ralph Nader group that was once a core member of the bipartisan coalition.

The main left-wing complaint is that the USMCA protects intellectual property, which is also the focus of policy against China. In the USMCA, Greenberg writes "Consider what protecting intellectual property means... policies that guarantee pharmaceutical companies 10 years of special monopoly rights on a special class of drugs and other special protections that block competition and mean higher drug prices in all three countries." The left does not believe what they call "Big Pharma" should profit from developing new medicines but should allow foreign firms to copy their work without charge and then undersell them. Their hatred for capitalism, which rewards innovation and hard work, overwhelms any sense of nationalism.

America has a comparative advantage in biochemistry and medical advances across the board, but the left does not believe we should benefit from this. The pharmaceutical industry directly accounts for more than 850,000 well-paying jobs, not to mention the value of the lives its products save. It is the nation's top industry for investment in research and development -- capital which the left does not want the industry to be able to recover. They call it "greed' in TV ads. The left's ignorance of even basic economics would destroy a strategic national industry. The left's focus on "free lunch" socialism as a campaign plank takes precedence

Greenberg then strikes at another strategic industry. USMCA "preserves special corporate rights for some U.S. oil and gas corporations that allow the companies to challenge Mexican environmental regulations... These investor protections could block Mexico from taking new steps to address climate change." It has been a major gain for not just American companies but for national security to have access to close-by Mexican energy resources which had long been closed due to a xenophobic government monopoly south of the border. This objection again demonstrates the left's hatred for private enterprise, reinforced for its delusions about climate change and fossil fuels. National interest means nothing in this ideology, which pulls the foundation from under any bipartisan coalition that puts America first.

Making and keeping America great is now a partisan effort because liberals have abandoned the effort. We named our capital city for a nonpartisan patriot who must be spinning in his grave.

William R. Hawkins is a consultant specializing in international economic and national security issues. He is a former Republican staff member on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.

While working in Washington during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, I was part of an effort to build a bipartisan coalition to reform American trade policy; or more precisely, formulate one. International trade was an issue that cut across party lines. Presidents of both parties favored "trade promotion" as an end in itself. Post-Cold War "globalists" -- backed by "transnational" corporations, persuaded them that the creation of social networks unencumbered by borders was the wave of the future. With "history at an end" there were no more security concerns to hem in markets or business dealings. And the old classical liberal notion that trade generated peace was given new life.

As a conservative, I knew whatever one said about history, things were going to continue to happen in recognizable ways. Bill Clinton proclaimed in 1998 that the Great Powers were no longer competing for wealth and territory. It was a doubtful claim at the time and is clearly not how to think of world affairs today. My part of the trade policy coalition was composed of national security Republicans. They did not want to see the outsourcing of strategic supply chains overseas which would make our defense industrial base vulnerable to disruption while transferring technology to rivals like China. Our partners on the left were labor Democrats who did not want to see American workers lose their jobs as factories closed in the Heartland. Mounting trade deficits meant that American money was not only creating jobs overseas but also building and sustaining industrial capacity that empowered the ambitions of foreign adversaries.

Winston Churchill warned against "building German industry with British and American money" when it would empower the Nazi regime; a warning equally valid for a China still run by the Communist Party. It had been fashionable for some time to claim that a more prosperous China would become a more liberal China. But that has not been the case and is no loner a tenable stance. President Xi Jinping's "China Dream" echoes too many of the themes of Hitler's Mein Kampf for anyone to rest easy.

One would think that Donald Trump, the first president of either party to take trade problems seriously, would have the old bipartisan coalition solidly in his corner. Bringing back manufacturing jobs that President Obama declared lost forever should rally the labor Democrats who had placed the welfare of workers above party loyalty in the past. It had been their votes in Congress that had denied a grant of "trade promotion authority" to their own President Clinton because they did not trust him to use it to protect the national interest. And they were right. Clinton helped create the World Trade Organization in 1995, based on the principle that governments "should not discriminate between its own and foreign products, services or nationals." Citizenship no longer mattered in a "global" economy. This idea has spread from trade to immigration, with so much influence on the left that most Democratic leaders have abandoned their protection of American workers from "cheap" foreign labor at home as well as overseas.

In the past, opposition to "free trade" among Republicans was the minority position despite the fact that the GOP had been born as the party of protection and had dominated politics during the growth of the U.S. into the world's largest manufacturing power from the Civil War through World War I. As the "arsenal of democracy" the U.S. won World War II and the Cold War. By recognizing the return of Great Power rivalry, President Trump has pulled the GOP back from the extreme laissez-faire attitude it had succumbed to during the fleeting post-Cold War euphoria. The actions taken to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and to end China's plunder of American technology have been based on national security concerns about sustaining a domestic industrial base capable of underpinning American preeminence in global politics.

It is the left side of the bipartisan trade reform coalition that has fallen apart. What had made bipartisanship possible had been a higher calling: national interest. Domestic business firms and their workers were all Americans struggling in common against foreign threats. The resurgence of a New Left that scoffs at the idea of American Greatness and equates nationalism with racism and imperialism finds working with a President committed to trade reform unthinkable if his name is Trump.

NAFTA had been the main target of the left half of the old coalition. President Trump made renegotiating it a top priority, producing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The new agreement includes improved rules of origin for automobiles, trucks, and other products; maintains protective tariffs on U.S.-made trucks; and disciplines currency manipulation. It expands market access for U.S. farmers and service providers and seeks to reduce the "cheap" labor advantage of Mexico. Yet, the left has been lobbying against ratification of USMCA for reasons that have nothing to do with American national interests. Indeed, their arguments run against them. A concise statement of their case was presented by Stan Greenberg in the Washington Post. Greenburg is a Democratic strategist and his op-ed was circulated by the Citizens Trade Campaign, a Ralph Nader group that was once a core member of the bipartisan coalition.

The main left-wing complaint is that the USMCA protects intellectual property, which is also the focus of policy against China. In the USMCA, Greenberg writes "Consider what protecting intellectual property means... policies that guarantee pharmaceutical companies 10 years of special monopoly rights on a special class of drugs and other special protections that block competition and mean higher drug prices in all three countries." The left does not believe what they call "Big Pharma" should profit from developing new medicines but should allow foreign firms to copy their work without charge and then undersell them. Their hatred for capitalism, which rewards innovation and hard work, overwhelms any sense of nationalism.

America has a comparative advantage in biochemistry and medical advances across the board, but the left does not believe we should benefit from this. The pharmaceutical industry directly accounts for more than 850,000 well-paying jobs, not to mention the value of the lives its products save. It is the nation's top industry for investment in research and development -- capital which the left does not want the industry to be able to recover. They call it "greed' in TV ads. The left's ignorance of even basic economics would destroy a strategic national industry. The left's focus on "free lunch" socialism as a campaign plank takes precedence

Greenberg then strikes at another strategic industry. USMCA "preserves special corporate rights for some U.S. oil and gas corporations that allow the companies to challenge Mexican environmental regulations... These investor protections could block Mexico from taking new steps to address climate change." It has been a major gain for not just American companies but for national security to have access to close-by Mexican energy resources which had long been closed due to a xenophobic government monopoly south of the border. This objection again demonstrates the left's hatred for private enterprise, reinforced for its delusions about climate change and fossil fuels. National interest means nothing in this ideology, which pulls the foundation from under any bipartisan coalition that puts America first.

Making and keeping America great is now a partisan effort because liberals have abandoned the effort. We named our capital city for a nonpartisan patriot who must be spinning in his grave.

William R. Hawkins is a consultant specializing in international economic and national security issues. He is a former Republican staff member on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.