Trump Nails Trade Hypocrisy

President Trump’s participation in the G7 conference in Canada focused on trade. Once again, he made it clear that he wants our trading partners’ tariffs and other barriers to U.S. imports to come down. This gave the American press the vapors, but why? Our president certainly should try to reduce obstacles to sales of American goods.

President Trump gave a press conference this morning in which he expressed his belief in free trade:

Q Mr. President, you said that this was a positive meeting, but from the outside, it seemed quite contentious. Did you get any indication from your interlocutors that they were going to make any concessions to you? And I believe that you raised the idea of a tariff-free G7. Is that —

THE PRESIDENT: I did. Oh, I did. That’s the way it should be. No tariffs, no barriers. That’s the way it should be.

Q How did it go down?

THE PRESIDENT: And no subsidies. I even said no tariffs. In other words, let’s say Canada — where we have tremendous tariffs — the United States pays tremendous tariffs on dairy. As an example, 270 percent. Nobody knows that. We pay nothing. …

We have to — ultimately, that’s what you want. You want a tariff-free, you want no barriers, and you want no subsidies, because you have some cases where countries are subsidizing industries, and that’s not fair. So you go tariff-free, you go barrier-free, you go subsidy-free. That’s the way you learned at the Wharton School of Finance. I mean, that would be the ultimate thing. Now, whether or not that works — but I did suggest it, and people were — I guess, they got to go back to the drawing and check it out, right?

But we can’t have — an example — where we’re paying — the United States is paying 270 percent. Just can’t have it. And when they send things into us, you don’t have that.

Trump is right that most countries protect their agricultural industries with tariff and non-tariff barriers. (The EU’s ban on GMO crops is an example of a non-tariff barrier that is rational only as an act of protectionism.) The U.S. has the most efficient agricultural sector in the world, and since most countries can’t compete with our farmers, they erect trade barriers. How is this any different from our imposing tariffs on steel or automobiles? It isn’t.

Does Canada actually impose a 270% tariff on American dairy products, as Trump keeps saying? Yes, it does, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Company:

Canada levies a tariff of 270 per cent on milk, 245 per cent on cheese and 298 per cent on butter in an effort to keep imports out and tightly control supply.

So Trump is right. A world without tariffs is a desirable goal, but a world in which the U.S. has no tariffs, but other countries erect barriers to our products, is not.

After President Trump departed for Singapore, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave a press conference in which he responded negatively to Trump’s call for reduced tariffs all around. It isn’t clear to me exactly what set Trump off, but he tweeted this:

And this:

We will see where this leads, but my guess is that the president will ultimately succeed in bargaining for reduced trade barriers. The question is one of degree.

Finally, there were a couple of other highlights in Trump’s press conference. Here, he responded to a hostile question:

Q As you were heading into these G7 talks, there was a sense that America’s closest allies were frustrated with you and angry with you, and that you were angry with them and that you were leaving here early to go meet for more friendlier talks with Kim Jong Un in Singapore. And I’m wondering if you —

THE PRESIDENT: It’s well put, I think.

Q — if you view it the same way. And do you view the U.S. alliance system shifting under your presidency, away —

THE PRESIDENT: Who are you with, out of curiosity?

Q CNN.

THE PRESIDENT: I figured. Fake News CNN. The worst. But I could tell by the question. I had no idea you were CNN. After the question, I was just curious as to who you were with. You were CNN.

And Scott had to especially appreciate this moment:

Okay, how about a couple of more? Go ahead in the back.

Q Thanks, Mr. President. Eliana Johnson with Politico.

It was a good day all the way around.

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