Renegotiating trade agreements was a key part of Trump’s 2016 election bid, and he has been effective in securing America’s interests abroad. Trump has put America first and has successfully used tariffs as leverage to address trade deficits and taxes on US businesses. In his first term, Trump has replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement, pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and achieved a trade deal with China. Consequently, the US government received $79 billion from trade tariffs, a significant increase on previous years. The introduction of tariffs has benefitted workers in industries producing the tariffed goods, as competitors face higher costs in the US market as a result - the US steel industry, for example, was a beneficiary, with thousands of jobs created. Trump has also used trade negotiations to achieve other foreign policy objectives. In the replacement of NAFTA, for instance, Trump used the possibility of tariff impositions to push the Mexican government to lower the numbers of asylum seekers crossing the US-Mexico border northwards. Similarly, the trade deal with China saw Beijing make concessions over intellectual property, financial services and currency, as well as an end to its “pressuring foreign companies to transfer their technology to Chinese companies” as a condition for access to the Chinese market. The trade deal with China has been called ‘phase one’, with Trump looking to make further gains in a second phase of negotiations that will begin following November’s election, should he win.
In pursuing the aggressive overhaul of several trade agreements, Trump has risked retaliation from many countries, raising tensions and hostility. In quickly resorting to the introduction of tariffs, the US risks becoming a less desirable trading partner for other nations. Unilateral tariffs imposed by the US are often followed by retaliatory tariffs, negatively impacting US exports and workers in export industries. The United Steelworkers Union complained that the “chaos” surrounding tariffs on Canadian steel is undermining business planning. The costs of tariffs are also largely borne by firms and consumers rather than foreign exporters as imports become more expensive - JP Morgan analysis suggests tariffs on China could cost the average American household up to $1,000 each year. The trade war with China has cost 0.3% of real GDP and nearly 300,000 jobs, according to Moody’s. The new trade deals have not improved the American trade deficit as Trump had hoped. The Trump administration are exaggerating the achievements of the trade deals reached. Many of the terms of the new deal with Canada and Mexico are the same as under the NAFTA agreement, and labelling the deal with China ‘phase one’ is a clever ploy to distract from the fact that the deal falls short of the ambitions of Trump’s government.
Rejecting the premises