Trump likes to be “tough-on-trade”, but his track record is mixed

Speakers at the Republican convention on 25 August touted President Trump’s tough stance on international trade as an argument for his re-election in November, but results of his policies have been mixed.
calendar icon 26 August 2020
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According to reporting in Reuters, many of Trump’s trade deals have had underwhelming results, especially with a key trade deal with China.

Cris Peterson, whose family has a 1,000-cow dairy farm in Wisconsin, spoke at the Republican convention about the impact Trump’s trade policies have had on her business.

Peterson told delegates that new trade deals gave her confidence to rebuild after a fire destroyed her barn in 2017.

"Trump understood and again took steps to provide the supports we needed," said Peterson. "Our entire economy, and dairy farming, are once again roaring back."

The administration devoted $16 billion to trade aid in 2019, much of that in direct payments to farmers.

After some dairy farmers were left without a place to sell their milk after the coronavirus closed schools and restaurants earlier this year, the administration announced billions more in aid for farmers.

However, many of Trump’s moves have not paid dividends for agriculture or other sectors of the economy. His administration raised tariffs on imports, including on steel, which is made from iron ore, renegotiated a deal with two of the country's main trading partners, Canada and Mexico, and started a tariff war with China before brokering a "Phase 1" deal earlier this year.

Steel prices rallied following the tariffs imposed in March 2018, feeding optimism in US steel towns. But higher prices later hurt demand from automakers, and resulted in layoffs at United States Steel Corp.

The US-China trade deal took about 18 months to negotiate, and US exports to China fell by nearly 8 percent from 2016 to 2019, according to census data.

Since the coronavirus, first discovered in China, swept across the world, the US-China relationship has worsened. More than 177,000 Americans have died, the most of any country.

China has fallen short of its pledged goals of increased purchases of US goods, especially where farm goods are concerned, as its own economy has suffered. Through July 2020, total Chinese imports of covered US goods were $48.5 billion, about half of what the Peterson Institute for International Economics calculates they should be at this stage.

Read more about this story on Reuters.

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