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Trump’s Trade Policy Is Madness

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

I applaud your clear explanation of the great damage that Trump’s proposed changes to Nafta will inflict on the American economy (“Trump’s Nafta Threat,” Oct. 16).  Yet one feature of Trump’s approach to trade warrants more explicit criticism – namely, his belief that we Americans benefit from trade the more we export and the less we import.

It cannot be said too often that exports are the costs that we pay for the goods and services that we import.  And so when Trump boasts that he’ll deploy his tough negotiating skills to rework Nafta in order to increase American exports and reduce American imports, he boasts, in fact, that he’ll negotiate to ensure that Americans pay more and receive in return less.

Those who deny the truth of this claim – that is, people who, like Trump, believe that exports are benefits and imports are costs – can prove the sincerity of their belief by shipping all of their worldly possessions to foreigners in exchange only for foreign currency to be stuffed into mattresses and never spent.  Anyone unwilling to perform this impoverishing feat should dismiss Trump’s trade policy as the unalloyed madness that it is.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030


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