Economic Report of the President Provides Feeble Defense of Trump Trade Policy



Bryan Riley | National Taxpayers Union Foundation

Failure to accurately assess the impact of trade agreements 

The report’s chapter on trade policy begins: “…the Trump Administration inherited a legacy of asymmetric trading arrangements that had imposed steep costs on U.S. manufacturing and segments of the labor market.” 

In fact, U.S. trade agreements are generally symmetric and fair. They embody the very “free, fair, and reciprocal” goals the Trump administration claimed to be pursuing. 

With a handful of exceptions on both sides, all U.S. trade agreements required each trading partner to treat foreign and imported goods equally. In addition to being free, fair, and reciprocal, most trade agreements negotiated prior to President Trump successfully reduced foreign tariffs by more than U.S. tariffs.That’s part of the reason that while U.S. tariffs have declined, foreign tariffs have declined by even more. 

The Economic Report adds, “…unfair trading arrangements…have harmed, in particular, U.S. manufacturing and manufacturing employment.” In fact, real manufacturing output increased by more than 50 percent from 1997 to 2019 as U.S. and global trade barriers fell. Manufacturing employment fell because manufacturing workers became more productive, and manufacturing job losses were typically not due to layoffs but instead resulted from workers finding better jobs.


To read the original issue brief from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, please click here

Bryan Riley is Director of NTU’s Free Trade Initiative. Bryan’s background includes years of research on the impact trade has on people in the United States. He has led grassroots campaigns in support of initiatives like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and in opposition to special-interest efforts to get the government to pick winners and losers in the U.S. economy. Bryan has been quoted in publications including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He is also an in-demand speaker who travels the country explaining the benefits international trade and investment bring to Americans. Bryan Riley grew up in Manhattan, Kansas. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Kansas State University and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Southern California. Bryan first came to Washington, DC as an NTU intern during the Reagan administration, and he continues to champion President Reagan’s pro-trade vision for America.