Donald Trump made what was probably his most specific speech this week and the focus was on the economy and trade. The speech signaled what would be one of the most dramatic changes in U.S. economic policy in many decades, but how realistic is it?
This is a Reality Check you won’t see anywhere else.
“NAFTA was the worst trade deal in the history— it’s, like, the history of this country. And China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization has enabled the greatest job theft in the history of our country.”
That was Donald Trump speaking at an aluminum plant in Pennsylvania this week. Trump attacked trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and China’s manipulation of currency.
Certainly, it was a populist message; today, I’m giving three of Trump’s statements a Reality Check.
Trump said, “When subsidized foreign steel is dumped into our markets, threatening our factories, the politicians have proven folks— have proven they do nothing.”
So a President Trump would make sure that steel used to build American buildings comes from America. But as a businessman who has built many skyscrapers, Trump hasn’t always done that.
According to Wayne Barrett’s Trump: The Deals and the Downfall from 1991, Trump chose to build Trump Tower with concrete instead of Pennsylvania steel because the cost was too high.
Der Scutt, the architect for the project, explained that Trump decided not to use steel to save money, saying, “When you change steel, you have to send it back to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and it comes back five weeks later. To do it in steel would have been prohibitively expensive.”
Trump said that “Hillary Clinton was totally for the TPP just a short while ago. But when she saw my stance— which is totally against— she was shamed into saying she would be against it too.”
Trump went on to talk about the trade deal that is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He says that he was on the side of Brexit and Hillary Clinton is not. That is true.
He also says that he has been opposed to the TPP and that Clinton, before she was against it, was for it. That is also true. In fact at least 45 times— yes, 45— Clinton praised the Trans-Pacific Partnership before she decided she is against it.
Just one example: “Big or small, we’re standing up for an economic system that benefits everyone… when our negotiators ensure that the new Trans-Pacific Partnership requires that state-owned enterprises compete under the same rules as private companies,” said Clinton.
Trump said, “She has it completely backwards. Hillary Clinton unleashed a trade war against the American worker when she supported one terrible deal after another— from NAFTA to China to South Korea. It doesn’t matter. No matter where she went, the American worker was hurt. and you’ll be hurt worse than ever before if she becomes president of the United States. That I can tell you.”
Finally is the issue of NAFTA. Trump says that he will re-negotiate NAFTA and if other nations are unwilling to do so, he will exercise his authority to end the U.S.’s participation in NAFTA. NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, was signed by President Bill Clinton. Trump is connecting Hillary Clinton to NAFTA. But historically, what is important is that while Clinton signed NAFTA, it was pushed and created by George H.W. Bush.
Trump calls NAFTA the worst trade deal in history, and maybe it is.
Trump said that “This wave of globalization has wiped out totally, totally our middle class. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can turn it around— and we can turn it around fast.”
So what you need to know, whether you like Donald Trump or you loathe him, it is an irrefutable fact that the outsourcing of jobs and manufacturing over the past 30 years has without question destroyed America’s middle class.
NAFTA caused a direct outsourcing of more than 700,000 American jobs, but NAFTA did more than that because it also created the framework for other trade deals, like the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
NAFTA’s principles were applied to the World Trade Organization and to the policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and those principles created the framework under which employers of China’s huge supply of low-wage workers were allowed access to U.S. markets in exchange for allowing American multinational corporations the right to invest there.
And again, who is at fault for the disaster that is NAFTA? A Republican president who created the framework, and a Democratic president who signed it.
That’s Reality Check— let’s talk about that on Twitter.