Trump has it all wrong. Americans don’t need government agreements. Americans need freedom – what a novel idea! – to trade with whomever we want under terms they find advantageous. That is the essence of free enterprise. It’s also necessary for prosperity.
What about the things Trump attributes to free trade? He says America’s manufacturing base has been devastated. But America’s real manufacturing output is at historic high levels? Exports are also at record heights. Moreover, although Americans import lots of goods, a substantial portion are producer goods – things Americans use to make other things, often for export. Tariffs would raise costs for American producers and make them uncompetitive.
The frequent lament that “we don’t make anything anymore” is wrong. This should be obvious. If we made nothing, who would sell us anything?