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January 31, 2020

Do "Principled Free Traders" Prefer Pre-Trump Chinese Trade to the New Trade Agreement?

Would the Principled Free Traders™ who have persistently condemned President Trump’s trade policies argue that we’d be better off with the pre-Trump trade arrangement with China? Given an either/or choice between the new trade agreement or the situation Trump inherited, which would the Principled Free Traders™ prefer?

• Would they forego the $200B of additional American exports, including $78B of manufactured goods, $52B in energy, and $40B in new agricultural products (nearly doubling existing US agricultural exports to China.)
• Would they prefer a system where China continues to steal US technology and intellectual property with no penalty or disincentive?
• Would they prefer that US companies continue to be barred from operating in China unless they consent to a minority ownership status as the price of access to the Chinese market?
• Would they prefer that China continue to place tariffs and trade barriers on all products except those that China cannot manufacture or grow domestically?

Sadly, the answer is probably “Yes.” Upon the announcement of the Phase I agreement, the Principled Free Traders™ quickly started complaining that it wasn’t worth the tariff damage already done to US consumers (the same US consumers who are suffering through the greatest economy of their lives), and most critically they argued that the agreement was a violation of their sacred free trade principles. And how was this a betrayal of their sacred free trade principles? Because China’s promises do not go far enough in reforming their markets, and because China’s $200B commitment is a “command and control” economic violation of everything sacred to free traders.

So, the Principled Free Traders™ who opposed Trump for coercing China to make any trade reforms are now condemning Trump for not coercing China to make enough reforms. Further, these same Principled Free Traders™ who have no problem with China’s command-and-control government when it bars American products from its market are somehow offended that the Chinese government is making a command-and-control pledge to buy $200B of American goods.

The cognitive dissonance of the Principled Free Traders™ clears up if you understand their one true principle – they are “America Last” globalists who revel in America getting shafted, especially when it benefits non-Americans. When a blue-collar American’s job is shipped to a government-controlled factory in China, the Principled Free Traders™ celebrate with high-fives and chest bumps, all the while mocking the displaced American worker with taunts of “Your job isn’t coming back” or “Learn to code.” But when a blue-collar American gains employment to manufacture a product for export to China, the Principled Free Traders™ become deeply offended. It’s rather clear that the only thing they want to export is jobs. Maybe we ought to export the Principled Free Traders™ instead. Unfortunately, there just isn’t much of a market for unprincipled loudmouths who won’t pipe down about their principles.

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