clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What Donald Trump doesn’t understand about trade

President Trump has promised to put “America first” — and his trade policy is no exception. When talking about trade deals, he often frames them as transactions in which one side wins and another side loses. For his own part, he’s promised to make sure America starts “winning again.” And while this rhetoric might be popular on the campaign trail, it oversimplifies the complex trade-offs inherent to global trade.

Most recently, Trump’s oversimplification of trade policy was on display when he signed an executive order withdrawing the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). When signing the order, President Trump described his decision as a “great thing for the American worker.” But what about the rest of America?

It is true that a decision to withdraw from the TPP protects American manufacturers by avoiding increased imports from Asia. But it is also true that a decision to join the TPP would have increased the market for American exports, particularly for American farmers that supported him during the election.

This shows that the deal was not a zero-sum proposal in which America would have either won or lost — it would have been a mixture of both. Whether or not the US should support such a deal ought to depend on a thorough understanding of the trade-offs such an agreement would offer.

The TPP is just one example, but there are many other instances of how President Trump’s narrow approach misses a wider reality. To learn more about Trump’s zero-sum trade policy and what else it overlooks, watch the video above.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.