Is There Method To Donald Trump’s Supposed Madness On Trade? by Jim Jatras

Jim Jatras argues there is indeed a method to Trump’s trade madness. From Jatras at

It would be an understatement to suggest that Trump’s decision to slap higher tariffs on practically everybody – has outraged almost everyone: most of the business community, foreign governments, media and experts from all fields.

President Donald Trump, it is said, is unleashing a global trade war, which is already beginning with promised retaliatory measures from our closest trading partners. Trump justified his action by claiming that steel and aluminum are strategic materials essential for national defense. In all likelihood national defense had little to do with his action. Rather, it is a ploy to put a “national security” halo around a measure being taken for economic reasons.

That doesn’t mean it’s the wrong move, however. It’s important to put these measures into the context of long-term US trade policy. US trade policy since World War II could almost have been designed to undermine the economic interests of American workers and American producers. Starting with Germany and Japan, our defeated enemies, we offered them the proverbial deal they can’t refuse: they get virtually tariff-free, nonreciprocal access to our huge domestic market to assist with their economies’ recovery from wartime destruction; in return, we would take their sovereignty: control of their foreign and security policies, as well as their military and intelligence establishments, plus permanent bases on their territory.

In effect, Germany and Japan ceded geostrategic control of their own countries and were rewarded at the expense of domestic US economic interests. This may have seemed a good deal for both sides at the time, in light of the mounting Cold War with the Soviet Union. Germany and Japan were flat on their back, we were the only major world economy not devastated by the war – in fact, our economy was booming. We could afford to be generous, especially as the arrangement strengthened our geopolitical position vis-à-vis the USSR and Soviet bloc.

Unfortunately, not only was the Germany-Japan arrangement not ended when those nations recovered by the end of the 1950s, it became the standard for our trade relation with other countries in non-communist Europe, as well as some in the Far East, notably South Korea.

To continue reading: Is There Method To Donald Trump’s Supposed Madness On Trade?

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