Tag Archives: free trade

Heading north in search of ‘international’ view of POTUS

Very soon, we’re going to pack up our RV and head north. We’ll cross into Canada near Vancouver, British Columbia, and begin a trek across that equally vast country.

Along the way I intend to ask lots of questions of our continental neighbors. I want to find out what they think of Donald John Trump and whether his vow to “put America first” and to “make America great again” is playing well with rank-and-file Canadians.

Our initial plan was to travel the length of Canada west to east. Then we thought differently. We have decided to do the western half first; we’ll visit the eastern half at a later date.

There’s been a lot of chatter in the U.S. media about U.S.-Canada relations. Some of it has suggested that the nations, two of the world’s closest allies, have grown apart in the Age of Trump. The president has disparaged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on occasion; Trudeau has returned a volley or two himself, although I must say the young PM’s retorts have been much more dignified and restrained.

Trump has slapped tariffs on Canadian goods shipped into this country. He has sought to craft a new trade deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he has called a “total disaster … probably the worst deal” in human history.

Does the “put America first” mantra go down well with our neighbors, with whom we share the largest unprotected border on Earth? Just how do Canadians feel about the way Trump has talked to and about Trudeau? The Canadians also are a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which aims to protect Europe against aggressors. What is their take on Trump’s belief that NATO nations need to spend more on their own defense or else possibly losing American participation altogether?

My much better half and I will get the chance to visit our neighbors up close for several weeks as we travel through the western provinces. We’ll likely get as far as Winnipeg, Manitoba, before turning south and headin’ for the house.

I look forward to sharing what we learn along the way.

Tariffs punish U.S. consumers, won’t curb migration

Do I have this straight?

Donald Trump wants to impose tariffs on goods coming to the United States from Mexico until our southern neighbor ends illegal immigration from Mexico into the United States.

Is that what he wants to do?

Well, why is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, other business groups friendly to Republican politicians (such as the president), and GOP politicians (such as U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas) so angry with Trump over the tariff threat?

Earth to POTUS: Tariffs don’t punish the countries that send goods into this country; they punish U.S. consumers who will pay more for those goods to cover the cost of the tariff.

The stock market took a header today. My retirement fund — not to mention the funds of millions of other Americans — also took a hit. Will it come back? I certainly hope so.

This tariff notion once again flies in the face of whatever passes for economic policy that emanates from the White House.

Donald Trump is conflating immigration policy with economic policy. He is seeking to damage one of this nation’s pre-eminent trading partners. Mexico clearly doesn’t want the tariff imposed, particularly since Mexico, the United States and Canada are supposedly set to agree to a new “free trade agreement” among the three nations.

It’s called the United States/Mexico/Canada Agreement, aka USMCA. It replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump called one of the worst trade deals in human history … or words to that effect.

How in the world does this tariff play in the context of the pending USMCA?

My view? It doesn’t play well at all!

Meanwhile, U.S. consumers are going to be the primary victims of yet another scatter-shot presidential economic policy.

This is not how you “put America first,” Mr. President.

Let’s call it NAFTA 2.0

Donald Trump vowed to toss out the North American Free Trade Agreement, calling it the “worst trade deal” ever negotiated … ever!

Over the weekend, the president announced a new trade agreement — which is called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — with Canada and Mexico. It remains to be seen whether it’s better than NAFTA. I’ll say this: Trump has delivered on a key campaign pledge to get rid of one trade deal and replace it with another.

I believe in free trade. I also believe that NAFTA was good for all three nations. It stripped away tariffs, enabling the nations to ship goods among each other. Trump contended during the 2016 that NAFTA cost the United States too many jobs, more or less echoing the mantra delivered in 1992 by Texas billionaire businessman H. Ross Perot.

Let’s look at the details of this deal

Congress will have to approve NAFTA 2.0. The president wants Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, to sign it before handing his office over to his successor. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who Trump once blasted as “weak” — called the new treaty a “good day for Canada.”

Midwest farmers are happy with the new agreement. I hope that happiness makes its way to Texas, with its own huge agricultural industry.

The new deal has drawn some guarded, but optimistic, responses from key lawmakers. According to Politico: “Maintaining the trilateral North American deal is an important prerequisite to preserving and extending those gains and the Trump administration has achieved that goal,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “I look forward to reviewing this deal to conform it meets the high standards of Trade Promotion Authority.”

I remain committed to free trade among the three friendly giant nations. I hope the new deal, once we dive deeply into the details, is the result of the guy who has boasted of his ability to cut the best deals in the history of Planet Earth.

Two years later, Trump still making no sense on trade

I posted a blog item nearly two years ago wondering if Donald Trump knew a damn thing about trade policy.

My conclusion, based on what I understood from a speech he gave in Bangor, Maine, was that he was clueless.

I must maintain that conclusion today.

Incoherence on trade policy …

Now that he is president of the United States, Trump has decided to impose steep and punishing tariffs on imported goods from two of our nation’s most vital trading partners: Canada and Mexico.

The Republican president has trashed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which includes the United States and, yes, Canada and Mexico. NAFTA was intended to forgo the kind of protectionist tariffs that governments impose on other nations.

The concept of “free trade” is to allow goods and commodities to flow among participating countries. To that end, I long have believed NAFTA was doing as it was intended.

Yet the president took office after promising to re-do NAFTA. I don’t know the basis of his disagreement with the agreement, except that he says the United States is wallowing in some sort of deepening “trade deficit” with our primary trading partners.

Now he’s calling Canada — Canada, I tell ya! — a threat to our “national security.” Does this guy, the president, know anything — about anything?

Two years ago, in Maine, Trump told us he favored free trade; then in the same speech, he said he opposed it.

His nonsensical approach to trade has not abated one bit now that he has taken an oath to serve as the head of state of our great nation.

This is what we acquired when Donald Trump got elected?

Holy cow, man!

Trump tariff tirade costs him a top adviser

Gary Cohn had to know what he was getting when he agreed to become Donald John Trump’s chief economic adviser.

He was hiring on to a team led by someone who doesn’t take advice. Trump flies by the backside of his britches. So, when the president decided to impose punishing tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, Cohn had seen enough.

He bailed. He’s gone. Cohn has decided t leave Trump’s economic team.

Cohn believes in free trade. Trump the populist believes in protectionism, which on its face flies directly opposite from traditional Republican economic policy.

But that doesn’t matter one damn bit to Donald Trump. He got angry at something or someone, so he decided to take it out on our nation’s trading allies. Canada, Mexico and many friendly trading partners in Western Europe are going to feel the pinch of the tariffs. What’s more, they are discussing retaliation.

Can you say, um, trade war?

As for Cohn, he sought to advise the president against acting so impetuously. Nice try, Mr. Cohn. Again, you had to know the guy for whom you were working was prone to this kind of knee-jerk behavior.

He won’t leave immediately, according to statements issued by Cohn and the White House. What the hell! Why not just hit the road?

According to Politico: Cohn, known in his decades on Wall Street as a pugnacious trader, is not leaving the fight right away. He plans to stay on for at least a couple of weeks and continue to battle Trump and the White House nationalists to more carefully tailor the tariffs to avoid antagonizing allies and inviting retribution.

For all the good it does to surround himself with actual experts on trade policy, Donald Trump will remain his own closest adviser.

Except that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Donald Trump: trade protectionist

Just how many more somersaults can the contemporary political structure endure?

There once was a time when Republicans hated tariffs and taxes; they called it protectionism. They were free trade advocates. Let the market determine all things involving trade, they would say.

Democrats invoked trade protectionism because their union movement allies insisted on it. They believed tariffs on imported goods protected domestically produced material. They were the champions of U.S.-made goods and commodities.

What in the name of free trade is going on here?

The nation’s top Republican, Donald John Trump has just announced steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. The GOP president has imposed a policy long favored by those hated Democrats.

So, how have the markets responded? Badly. Wall Street tanked again today on that news, with the Dow Jones average plunging more than 500 points, before closing at just a little less than 500 points in the red.

Tariffs are taxes. The result is that the price of the goods being imported is going to increase. I also thought rampant inflation once was considered a bad economic trend. Wasn’t it? Isn’t it still?

Me? I am a free trader. I like the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA opened this hemisphere to free trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico. Trump doesn’t like NAFTA. It’s that “populist” theme on which he campaigned for president in 2016.

This brings to mind a curious question for me: How does this president hang on to such strong Republican support when his economic policies — such as they are — run counter to traditional GOP principles?

It’s all gone topsy-turvy. I can’t keep my balance.

President redefines ‘populism’

I would venture a guess that if one were to ask Donald J. Trump to define “populism” off the cuff that he would say something like: It’s the philosophy on which I campaigned successfully for the presidency of the United States.

Translation: He likely doesn’t understand a philosophy aimed at taking power away from big corporations and the rich folks who run them.

This billionaire real estate mogul and TV celebrity campaigned as a populist, declaring his intention to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and “work for you, the people.” He would surround himself with the “best people” to run the government and would “drain the swam” of the corporate corruption he said has infected American politics since the beginning of the Industrial Age.

He is governing, though, as anything but a populist.

The president did sign the executive order that took the United States out of TPP. NAFTA? Well, in the span of just a few days he said he would consider pulling out; then he said he wouldn’t after talking to the leaders of Mexico and Canada; then he said he would like to “renegotiate” the treaty. The “best people” surrounding him include a healthy cadre of executives from Goldman Sachs, the big-time investment outfit he criticized freely during the campaign. The “swamp”? It’s still full of muck.

I want to focus for a moment on NAFTA. Free trade is an example of orthodox Republican philosophy with which I agree. I dislike artificial barriers, such as import taxes and tariffs, that inhibit trade, particularly among bordering nations. NAFTA’s intent is to open markets throughout three major nations: the United States, Canada and Mexico. Is it perfect? No. Is it as flawed and “disastrous” as the president has contended? No to that, too.

It has fostered a freer flow of goods across the borders of all three nations and has been a significant net plus for their economies.

I am heartened to sense the president is beginning to understand that campaign rhetoric often must differ with the way one actually governs.

NAFTA is not the bogeyman that Trump called it while winning the presidency.

As for whether he can govern as the populist he portrayed himself as being, I only can point to the weekend lifestyle he still enjoys as he jets off to Mar-a-Lago, his glitzy, glamorous and posh resort in southern Florida.

His attachment to all the decadence associated with it suggests to me that the president is a populist in name only. Hey, maybe we can create a new acronym: PINO.

NAFTA on the ropes, now it’s back on its feet

This just in: Donald J. Trump has decided that the United States will not withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Well. How about that?

Word came out today that the president might pull out of NAFTA, an agreement he criticized throughout his campaign for the White House.

Then he got on the phone today with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. Both men talked to our president and apparently persuaded him to pull away from his threat to abandon NAFTA.

This is good news.

I have long supported NAFTA. I believe free trade among the North American nations has been good for all of them and it has helped strengthen the alliances among them. I hope this means Trump will cease his NAFTA-bashing and try to smooth the tension that has developed between the United States and the other two nations individually.

The president has proposed a 20 percent tariff on Canadian lumber shipped to the United States; and, of course, he and the Mexican government have been arguing over who’s going to pay for construction of a wall along our southern border.

The NAFTA pullout is now off the table. May it never return.

What a difference a year makes for CPAC

It’s been said that a “week is a lifetime in politics.”

So is a month, or perhaps an hour.

If any of those time measurements amount to a lifetime, how does a year compute?

I pose the question because of what transpired this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where Donald J. Trump took the place by storm, prompting rousing applause and cheers, declaring that CPAC finally had one of their own as president.

Do you recall what CPAC speakers were saying a year ago to equally rousing cheers and applause? They were calling Trump a phony conservative. You had the likes of U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz talking trash about Trump. The crowd ate it up, swallowed it whole.

Trump then went on to vanquish those two, and a host of other Republicans to take command of the GOP and ultimately to become elected president of the United States.

What gives? How fickle are these CPACers? I believe they’re quite fickle. You see, the president is still the same guy who got the raspberry a year ago.

Trump was supposed to speak to CPAC a year ago. Then he backed out, fearing his immigration policies would provoke disturbances at the conference … or so he said.

CPAC conservatives used to embrace free trade. They used to consider Russia to be a mortal enemy of the United States. They frowned on politicians who led less-than-upstanding personal lives.

Trump — the thrice-married admitted philanderer, free trade foe and supposed pal of Vladimir Putin — gets elected and then stands before CPAC to soak up all the cheers that once went to other Republicans.

What on this ever-lovin’ Earth am I missing?

Trump, Pence: clash of egos


Mike Pence wouldn’t like being associated with this politician, but I’m going to offer it anyway.

The late George McGovern — a liberal icon and one of my favorite pols — once stated that a politician’s most necessary trait is to possess a huge ego.

You’ve got to think highly of yourself in order to achieve success in the political world, McGovern declared.

Thus, it is that memory of a former presidential candidate’s observation, that brings me to the present day.

Gov. Pence himself is a successful politician: service in the U.S. Congress and as Indiana governor.

His rollout Saturday as Donald J. Trump’s vice-presidential running mate, though, makes me wonder: Is Pence’s ego going to suffer grievous injury because of the behavior and spotlight-hogging style of the Republican Party’s presidential nominee?

Those of you who watched Trump prattle on for nearly 30 minutes Saturday about himself, his business success, his defeat of 16 other GOP candidates, and his record-setting vote totals in the GOP primaries had to have wondered what Pence might have been thinking as he waited — patiently, I presume — in the wings.


Then came the introduction. Trump and Pence shook hands, Trump patted his running mate on the arm, then walked off the stage. Political tradition dictates that the candidate at the top of the ticket introduces the running mate and then stands dutifully behind the No. 2 guy and leads the applause when he delivers the appropriate punch lines.

Tradition, however, is the last thing that Trump wants to follow.

And that brings me to this final point.

Mike Pence is as traditional a politician as one can find. He’s a doctrinaire conservative Republican. He believes in free trade (which Trump opposes), he is anti-abortion (which Trump has supported), he is loyal to his party (which Trump has characterized as being part of a “rigged system”).

He also possesses — if Sen. McGovern’s wisdom is correct — the kind of ego that all politicians need to be successful.

There can be zero denying Trump’s h-u-u-u-u-g-e ego.

Those of us who are interested in these things are going wait with some anticipation to see whether these two men can settle their apparent — and in some cases obvious — differences in style … and public policy.