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History Shows Why America Needs Trump’s China Tariffs

Posted on Saturday, July 15, 2023
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by Ben Solis
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32 Comments

AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis

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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s trip to Beijing last week re-affirmed a truth backed up by centuries of U.S. economic history that even the Biden administration understands: Trump’s China tariffs are good for the country, and good for global security.

According to reports from Yellen’s meeting with her Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier He Lifeng, one of Beijing’s top concerns is lifting Trump-era tariffs that have hampered the Chinese economy. But Biden, in what amounts to nothing less than an explicit endorsement of his predecessor’s policy, has kept most of Trump’s tariffs in place. (To be sure, Biden has capitulated to Chinese interests in other ways and emboldened Beijing through his many foreign policy blunders.)

Trump’s China tariffs revived a debate over unrestricted free trade vs. protectionism that dates back to the very beginning of the country. In fact, one of the first significant pieces of legislation passed by the new United States Congress on July 4, 1789, was a list of tariffs on goods. Much like Donald Trump in 2016, the political leaders of America’s founding generation were concerned about the country’s rapidly rising debt and a flood of foreign imports wrecking domestic industries.

Tariffs became a central component of U.S. economic and foreign policy throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Republican presidents such as William McKinley and Herbert Hoover made tariffs a central part of their campaign platforms.

By principle, Democrats resisted Republicans who prioritized the economic empowerment of American families. But their hostility toward tariffs reached its apogee during the beginning of the 20th century, viewing them as an obstacle to globalization and international expansion.

A major shift began with the election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. Roosevelt viewed a liberal free trade program as an instrument of foreign policy, rather than a tool to better America’s economic condition. He promised that free trade would be a substitute for armed conflict, cheap capital would be the foundation for the nation’s future prosperity, and, over a period of time, an interconnected global economy would become the cornerstone of a new world order.

Two years after Roosevelt’s death in 1945, the United States became a signatory to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) – a precursor to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

GATT fundamentally changed the way the United States and virtually every other economic power around the world looked at trade. Instead of nations implementing tariff policies in the best economic interests of their working populations, individuals and companies carried out trade on a global level in accordance with their own interests – despite the severe ramifications for domestic workers and national security (as the United States saw during the COVID-19 pandemic with the overreliance on Chinese manufacturing of medical equipment).

GATT resulted in a dramatic decline in global tariffs. The average tariff for the major GATT participants was about 22 percent on most goods in 1947, but declined to 5 percent by 1999.

By the 1980s, however, it became clear that unregulated free trade was threatening hundreds of thousands of American jobs and had initiated a massive outflow of capital to countries that offered cheap labor – undercutting wages for U.S. workers and threatening standards of living.

Despite these concerns, U.S. leaders doubled down throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. In 1990, President Bush decided to open U.S. markets to imports for nearly all products, but only a few nations opened their markets to U.S. exports. China, notably, was not among them.

In 1994 and 1995, respectively, the U.S. adopted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and led the creation of the WTO – two hallmarks of the modern globalist agenda. Although Trump delivered on a major 2016 campaign promise by repealing and replacing NAFTA with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, a far more protectionist-minded deal, U.S. tariffs, including on China, still remain far below where they were for most of U.S. history.

As a result, China has grown rich on U.S. capital. According to Roger Robinson, the former Chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, American investors have “provided as much as $2- $3 trillion or more in investment capital to Chinese companies over the past decade.”

These investments – all of which were directly enabled by loose free trade policies – have left the United States dangerously reliant on Chinese exports for everything from automobile manufacturing to battery production and even military hardware.

Free trade policies also harmed the image of the United States abroad. Soulless investors and asset managers purchased foreign companies for next to nothing and then paid employees even less, forcing them to work in horrid conditions. In one high-profile incident, at least 20 employees at an iPhone manufacturing plant in China committed suicide over the course of one year, drawing international outcry.

Many U.S. companies have also willfully turned a blind eye to China’s human rights violations, most notably the persecution of Uighur Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang province. Although some lawmakers have sought to hold Beijing accountable, powerful corporate interests have invested significant resources in keeping Congress on the sidelines.

Trump, however, changed that dynamic. Former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer explained Trump’s goal plainly in stating, “The U.S. objective should be to continue trade and economic activity beneficial to us and to discourage any part that is not.”

Biden, for his part, has been a reluctant adherent to this approach, at least when it comes to China. In other areas of trade, however, he has fallen far short, and his foreign policy blunders have left the United States in a worse negotiating position with Beijing.

For Trump, the right balance was reciprocal trade that protected America’s domestic economic interests and foreign policy priorities – something that would’ve seemed familiar to the founding generation. It was, in other words, a strategy to put “America First.”

Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian, and researcher.

 

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Jack
Jack
9 months ago

The U.S. could produce most of the necessary items keeping our economy almost self-sufficient. Tariffs were crucial for that purpose. Secondly, tariffs could protect us against China, which is constantly cheating. It is not a rules-based country but a lie-and-deception-founded one. We should stop trading with them and tell those wealth managers, Apple CEOs, etc. – either there or here in the West.
I applaud especially this Trump policy for America.

Roda
Roda
9 months ago

The tariff policy will chip away at the super-wealthy who crowd around poor alternatives to Trump. But they are so wealthy not because of their intelligence or talent but because of their ability to get away with exploiting the economic system against the American people.
Looking from my small town’s perspective, I am confident that tariffs will help bring jobs to this country or at least stop the flow of our capital away. Preachers of the so-called “free market” were well-paid by oligarchs like that crowd from Florida around D.S. They and their employees live well, but only them. These people also using the GOP label are heavily invested in China. During Trump, we had here increasing employment – it was recovery from previous years after Bush’s dad opened doors to China wide open. Now, it is stagnation. People have to find 2-3 jobs to make a living. Besides again, products flow from China and E.U. dramatically increased. So far, no other Republican candidate wants to discuss this issue.

Mark Willson
Mark Willson
9 months ago

Ever since Trump imposed tariffs on Chicoms, Europeans began their discussion. After a few years, they agreed that after the EU elections next year, the new Parliament should demand tariffs on China and on whom the bloc has imbalances.
Thanks for this informative article. I learned a great deal. I remember Reagan said that free trade is not remarkably free and, most importantly, does not aid Americans. It was not a formal speech but a talk to a group in California before he ran for President. For decades, we paid with our jobs for the wealth-building of a few “sneaky” individuals. Just look at the list of wealthy among the so-called GOP donors. 
And also look who opposes Trump – people profiting from that system – importers of cheap garbage from China, large producers who crush our small farmers, “lawyers,” lobbyists who seek a privileged position for their clients, etc.
Trump should now impose more tariffs on China, the EU, and other countries with surpluses. It is past time to narrow deficit levels and reduce the debt.

Mimi
Mimi
9 months ago

The title of the article says America needs Trump’s tariffs. I say, AMERICA NEEDS TRUMP! End of story!

Fred Noel
Fred Noel
9 months ago

The CCP released their bio weapon the CCP-19-VIRUS to unseat a sitting U.S.President because he was holding them accountable for their bad actions. They did this in coordination with the END and Dr Deep State Fauci. Nation wide mail-in balloting fraud and corruption stole the Presidency.

Philip Seth Hammersley
Philip Seth Hammersley
9 months ago

We need to get key manufacturing back to the US! How could we fight a war if we have to beg for steel, medicine, computer chips, etc.? China is THE key enemy’ forget about Russia, the DIMMs bugabear! Let Europe worry about Russia; that’s THEIR neughbor!

deb
deb
9 months ago

Competition reduces prices. Tariffs increase prices. The result is benefits for Americans, but Unions distort prices and cause an imbalance. Putting a wheel on a car type job has a certain value – say $20/hr. A union forces $30/hr with $8/hr going to the Union. That causes prices to rise with no benefit except to the Union. Capitalism works correctly except when an imbalance is caused by Unions.

JOE SIRACUSAT
JOE SIRACUSAT
9 months ago

TRUMP & DR, BEN CARSON FOR 2024 “UNITY & TRUTH GOD BLESS!

Morbious
Morbious
9 months ago

When Trump adopted his tough on china stance, it was like shining a light on the rats selling out this country for a price. The more they squealed the more obvious where their loyalties lie. This united dem and rino like nothing else could against him.

Ed J
Ed J
9 months ago

Generally speaking, the harder we hit China in its pocketbook, the better it will be for America and the rest of the Free World. In fact, it is postulated that if De-Cinicization proceeds as it has recently been unfolding, the CCP may implode and cease to exist within a decade. China definitely has economic problems, and the more we help with their free-fall, the better for the world.

Randall L. Beatty
Randall L. Beatty
9 months ago

President Trump had the right idea when he made China pay higher tariff’s this would keep China in check they cheat when ever they can. We have the know how in this country time to let go the need to have China make things for us we can do all that in this country without there so called help time for our government to say enough is enough with China, President Trump had the right plan charge China higher Tariff’s not like out our President we have now bow down to them let them use our country and make billions off of us and treat us like dirt no respect for this country or our President and his VP and for the White House.

Ann S
Ann S
9 months ago

China first America second or maybe even third under sloppy.
He has to do something for the millions of dollars he has been getting from Xi.

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
9 months ago

Present Admin WONT Use tariffs on China

Sharon
Sharon
9 months ago

I am all for tariffs but i am not sure most people understand how they work. China doesnt pay the tariffs, we do! Small businesses need to come up the 25% tariff in cash to pay the government before you can import the goods. What do you think that does to small businesses working capital, ability to meet payroll etc…What do you think happen then??? we pass the imports onto the consumers as we cannot eat the 25% tariff. And guess what since we don’t produce anything here any more and other even using other countries, we cant meet the consumption. So, maybe there are better ways to punish China.

Christine
Christine
9 months ago

Mao’s 100 year war on the US concludes in 2049. The goal is to take down and out the US. Mao’s strategy: Hide your strength. Bide your time. The US had better wake up or start learning to speak Chinese.

ADM64
ADM64
9 months ago

Jobs didn’t just flee overseas because of “free” trade (a misnomer if ever there was one), nor did we grow strong fundamentally because of tariffs (which back in the 19th century were relatively modest and, in any event, the federal government’s only major source of income). We grew strong because we had a virtually non-existent federal government for the first 150+ years, minimal national debts, sound money (which facilitated savings and investment), strong protections for property (intellectual and physical), strong protections for contracts, a relatively restrained and clear legal framework for business, no entitlements and minimal government spending, and a generally decent education system. All of those things reinforced one another. None of those conditions are present any longer.
If we were to recreate those conditions, we would sweep all before us, with or without tariffs. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have protections against the theft of intellectual property by foreign governments nor against government-backed intervention in our economy. However, we want the social democratic, heavily regulatory welfare state, and are unwilling to assess costs, so business of course fled overseas at the first opportunity. Tariffs alone won’t reverse that. Nor will a population unwilling to assume the risks and responsibilities of individual life in favor of having government look after them. People voted for big government and security and go the predictable consequences. Business was treated as a pariah even back in the 50s and 60s (in which we dominated because our competitors were destroyed in WWII while our economy ran on the pre-WWII momentum) so of course they looked for a pragmatic option – one that worked for politicians and the white collar class as well. So, while I support prioritizing our industrial rebirth – and think it 100% possible – it won’t happen with just tariffs nor without massive restructuring of our system back towards limited government, deregulation, sound money and individual rseponsibility.

anna hubert
anna hubert
9 months ago

Greed created the monster that is about to eat us Slave labor keeps it going It’s all good we are all friends

Roda
Roda
9 months ago

I do not understand why you are not discussing the topic.

johnh
johnh
9 months ago

The current admin needs to read the history of what happened to USA when the the recession started in 1928-29 & the POTUS put tariffs about 1931-32 & that helped speed up and prolong the Great Depression. This fact was in Brok book.

johnh
johnh
9 months ago

The goal of Trump’s tariffs was to force Americans to buy goods made in USA. But , do to lack of minerals & our manufacturing moving overseas in 90s, we still have to purchase goods from China & US consumers pay more because we end up paying that tariff. Do you realize the USA does not have one mine in USA that is producing ore to make aluminum for example? And Trump came up with a lot of money to give to USA farmers due to damage to them from these tariffs. Trump said these tariffs would add Billions of dollars to our treasury, but how is that possible as I do not believe that US Government gets the tariff money or am I wrong on that & Trump is correct in his statement.

Cv66RoofRat
Cv66RoofRat
9 months ago

Initially, the Federal government was barred from taxing the peopleat least until the alleged passage of the 16th amendment on February3, 1913. Until then, the Federal government funded itself and the military through the collection of import and export tariffs.
This was enforced through the operations of the US Revenue Cutter Service, one of the precursors of the today’s modern US Coast Guard, and through other agencies of the time.

Donald trump
Donald trump
9 months ago

I’m Donald trump and I have diabeties.

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