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Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Today’s report “U.S. Proposing New Round of Trade Talks With China” makes clear that Pres. Trump’s boast that trade wars are “easy to win” is absurd. Each new batch of U.S. tariffs is met by a new batch of Chinese tariffs. No end of this escalation of each government’s economic abuse of its own citizens is in sight. The Trump people, however, assure us that this unilateral waging of a trade war is a sound means of securing global tariff reductions in the future.

How ironic. These are the same people who express deep disdain for the WTO, NAFTA, and other multilateral processes for lowering trade barriers. Yet one lesson of history is clear: while unilaterally waged trade wars have a sketchy record of leading to lower tariffs rates, these multilateral processes, despite their imperfections, have a solid record of lowering tariff rates.

By unilaterally resorting to ‘retaliatory’ tariff hikes – a wholly unreliable tactic for lowering global tariffs, and one that can backfire calamitously – Mr. Trump is thereby jeopardizing a proven method for achieving the reduced trade barriers that he says he wants to achieve.

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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