As leaders of the world met last week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, trade was an important topic of discussion. Unlike in past years, when the status quo ate away at the wealth of the United States and at the strength of its workforce, this year’s meeting featured a sea change in the world trade system.
Thanks to President Donald J. Trump, the United States is no longer subsidizing the growth of other countries at the expense of American jobs and American wages. In the post-World War II world, the United States helped rebuild the economies of our allies and friends in Europe, Asia and South America through enervating trade agreements or by looking the other way in the face of predatory trade policies. But as many of these countries grew into economic behemoths, America’s trade policy did not change.
Permanent normal trade relations with China, signed by the Clinton administration, and China’s accession to the World Trade Organization only exacerbated the damage done to the United States’ once enviable industrial power.
As America tore down its own walls to allow in cheap foreign imports, other nations kept theirs up. Under the guise of one-sided “free trade” agreements, our trading partners protected their critical industries, while key United States sectors were undermined by foreign governments’ subsidies and protectionism.
Luckily, the Trump administration has turned the tide, securing significant wins for American workers and producers. Most notably, the president has negotiated the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement with Mexico and Canada, a complete rewrite of the outdated NAFTA deal. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the new agreement will add 176,000 new jobs and $68.2 billion to the U.S. economy. A separate report from the U.S. Trade Representative estimated the deal would add 76,000 jobs to the auto industry and attract $34 billion in auto plant investments. The new deal is a win for farmers, ranchers, businesses and American workers alike. Congress must pass this deal now.
This past week in New York, Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reached two agreements to rebalance trade between Japan and the U.S. Under one of the agreements, Japan will open up its markets up to more than $7 billion in American agricultural exports and other products. The other deal includes robust digital trade commitments agreed to by both countries that cover $40 billion in two-way trade. These two deals will greatly expand the market for U.S. goods in Japan and reduce the trade deficit.
After right-footing our trade relationship with the European Union on principles mutually agreed upon, the Trump administration negotiated an agreement with the EU to establish a duty-free tariff rate quota for U.S. beef, which will allow the United States to nearly triple its annual duty free exports of beef to the EU. This is unquestionably a win for America’s ranchers.
Through revisions to the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement concluded in September 2018, South Korea agreed to double the number of U.S. automobile exports to 50,000 automobiles per manufacturer per year that meet U.S. safety standards and can enter the Korean market without modification. In addition, Korea agreed to limit the red tape around the sale of American cars and other goods there.
Just last month, the U.S. Department of Commerce secured a better deal to protect domestic tomato farmers from Mexico’s aggressive trade practices after withdrawing from an antiquated agreement that allowed Mexican tomato export practices to go virtually unchecked. The new agreement completely eliminates the injurious effects of unfairly priced Mexican tomatoes, prevents price suppression and undercutting, and virtually eliminates the underlying dumping matter.
Though skeptics predicted the worst for the economy under the president’s new trade posture, the opposite has happened. The U.S. economy is growing even as GDP growth flags in other countries. Since Trump’s election, the economy has added 6.3 million jobs, including 130,000 just last month and over 500,000 in manufacturing alone. In August, nominal average hourly wages rose 3% or faster year over year for the 13th straight month, after failing to reach 3% between May 2009 and July 2018. Poverty fell to its lowest level in almost two decades, with previously disadvantaged groups like black and Hispanic Americans reaping the benefits.
The evidence is clear that Trump’s fight for a level playing field is paying off for Americans of all stripes. He has secured better trade deals that will undo the damage done by decades of unbalanced trade agreements. Thanks to the Trump administration’s policies, America is wining on trade.
Wilbur Ross is secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.