Free trade disappoints American voters...again

There is reason why a large majority of Tea Party supporters oppose free trade agreements: far too often, they harm the American economy.

Judson Philips, the president of Tea Party Nation, offered the following thoughts in a provocative op-ed  from early 2014:

Bill Watson of the Cato Institute claimed that the Tea Party supported so-called free trade. It is always amusing to have people who are not a part of the Tea Party movement tell people who are in the Tea Party movement what the Tea Party movement believes and supports ...

Free trade does exist. We have it in the United States. There is free trade across the borders of the states and conservatives and Tea Party activists like this form of free trade. Tea Party activists like free and fair trade. We also like national borders and our nation, unlike global corporatists who have no loyalty to the country of their birth but sure know how to use big government to get taxpayer-funded bailouts and special favors.

And yet so many of the politicians who claim to represent the Tea Party remain ardent supporters of free trade, such as Rand Paul, Jim DeMint, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio, among others.

Along came Donald Trump, first recognizing and then vociferously verbalizing the failings of so-called "free trade," and the support the Tea Party held for the free trade proponents evaporated – especially during some notable GOP primary campaign failures.

While the free trade deficit with Mexico ($58 billion in 2015) under NAFTA gets the most media attention, as well as, of course, the massive trade deficit with China ($366 billion), these two players account for only 58% of the $736-billion total trade deficit the U.S. racked up last year.

During 2015, this total trade deficit amounted to a staggering 4.1% of U.S. GDP.  Since the trade deficit is subtracted from GDP, it is economic parasitism.

Among the other free trade agreements causing headaches for the American economy is the one with South Korea.  The U.S.-Korea trade agreement (KORUS FTA) came into force on March 15, 2012.

In the decade before the agreement, the trade deficit with South Korea was already large (about $13 billion per year on average) but relatively stable.  Immediately after KORUS FTA came into force, the trade deficit ballooned up to $21 billion in 2013, climbing to $25 billion in 2014 and reaching $28.3 billion last year.

Canada made the same mistake.  The Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA) – signed by the government of Stephen Harper with the support of all major federal parties, including the socialist New Democratic Party – entered into force on January 1, 2015.  Last year, Canada's trade deficit with South Korea rose 25% over the 2014 level up to CDN$3.85 billion.

Year after year we hear pundits decrying the ongoing anemic GDP growth and at the same time promoting free trade, failing to connect the dots.  This time, it looks as if voters have connected the dots for them.