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Let’s Lose this Trade War

Here’s a letter of mine that appears in today’s Washington Post:

Robert J. Samuelson is correct that President Trump’s trade war will not end with a U.S. victory [“We’re going to lose this trade war,” op-ed, June 25]. But the reason runs deeper than Mr. Trump’s misguided focus on the trade deficit and his antagonizing our allies. The ultimate reason we will not win this trade war is that Mr. Trump is waging it against us. Mr. Trump’s tariffs are designed to make goods and services — including inputs for U.S. factories — not only artificially scarcer for us today but also scarcer for us into the indefinite future. The guiding philosophy of this administration’s trade policy is unalloyed mercantilism, which has among its core goals the maximization of exports and the minimization of imports. And so what Trump regards as a “victorious” outcome of his trade belligerence — his objective in waging this insane “war” — is a global trading system in which Americans, year after year after year, export more and import less. Foreigners will get more of what we produce, and we will get less of what they produce. An American “victory,” therefore, will result in non-Americans being artificially enriched at our expense. This war is one that we Americans should fervently hope to “lose.”

Donald J. Boudreaux, Fairfax