Biden Unveils Plan For Ending Trump’s Trade War

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

Trump's recession began in February of this year before we shut down any part of our own economy in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The economy was already susceptible to weak global demand because Trump's trade war had already squeezed margins to the brink. The economy was projected to grow by just 1.2 to 1.5 percent this year even before the coronavirus existed and a recession wasn't out of the cards.

Ending Trump's trade war will be essential to global economic recovery as well as our own and, fortunately, former Vice President Joe Biden has just laid out his plans for doing so.

Political reality being what it is, however, Biden can't just say he's going to roll back Trump's tariffs and call it a day. Ending Trump's trade war will require replacing it with something else and Biden's plan calls for passing a stimulus program that will directly invest in American-made goods rather than try to force other countries to buy more goods.

Biden calls for a $400 billion, four-year increase in government purchasing of U.S.-based goods and services plus $300 billion in new research and development in U.S. technology concerns. Among other policies expected to be announced Thursday, he proposes tightening current "Buy American" laws that are intended to benefit U.S. firms but can be easily circumvented by government agencies. [...]

The Democrat's agenda carries at least some rhetorical echoes of Trump's "America First" philosophy, but the former vice president's aides describe his approach as more coherent. They cast Trump's imposition of tariffs and uneven trade negotiations with other nations as a slapdash isolationism compromised further by tax policies that enrich multinational corporations. The Biden campaign also pointed to an uptick in foreign procurement and continued outsourcing of jobs by U.S.-based corporations during Trump's presidency.

This is the clearest signal yet that Biden will directly attack Trump's record on trade rather than coyly co-sign it.

Personally, I couldn't be more pleased.

One of my greatest frustrations with progressive economic rhetoric of recent years has been the tendency to say that international trade deals, rather than our own weak labor laws and stagnant wages, are the root of all economic evils. And that doesn't mean our trade deals are perfect -- no deal that requires compromise is -- but incoherent rhetoric leads to incoherent policy. Democrats and progressives who wouldn't have launched Trump's trade war themselves still contributed to justifying it through their irresponsible rhetoric.

Signing trade deals that give American and foreign companies equal access to each other's markets alone does not weaken our economy or labor standards. American have allowed our standards to be deliberately weakened by electing Republican and conservative lawmakers who've passed laws to weaken them. Trade deals do not produce Republicans who refuse to raise minimum wages or Republicans who pass "right-to-work" laws that regulate unions out of existence. Trade deals don't elect GOP administrations that dismantle every environmental regulation they can get their hands on; Americans do that. We are responsible for our own messes. A generation of political apathy and selfishness has weakened our economy, not a trade deal we agreed to thirty years ago.

The European Union is the largest free trading bloc in world with 28 member countries, and you know what? Virtually all of their standards from the environment to labor are far higher than our own. You can engage in free trade and increase your own standards at the same time.

Biden's plan also calls for strengthening the collective bargaining rights of unions and that will do more to preserve jobs than any tariff ever has.

The total in dollar figures included in Biden's plan would amount to far more significant gains for American companies than Trump's "biggest and greatest deal" with China would have even if his deal wasn't dead in the water.