According to the President of the United States, America “looses soooo much money on Trade with Mexico under NAFTA” that he would consider closing the US-Mexico border if Congress does not agree to fund a wall between the two countries. Such a move, President Trump says, would constitute a “profit making operation.”
Now, aside from avoiding the reality that America does not, in fact, “loose” billions of dollars in trade with Mexico, as President Trump tries to claim (based presumably on the $71 billion US goods trade deficit with Mexico), this threat also raises a poignant question: where are all our self-avowed fair traders on this issue?
First, we have top White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, author of Death by China, who argued in an op-ed at the New York Times that “trade must be not only free but also fair and reciprocal.” “Must be” free and reciprocal? Perhaps Navarro forgot to stipulate “unless there’s a fight over border wall funding and the President needs a hostage or two.”
Navarro actually did go on to add the caveat that “Neither of these goals of the Trump presidency should stand in the way of our longstanding and productive strategic alliances and economic relationships with members of the Group of 7.” And while it’s true that Mexico is not a member of the G7, no one can argue that it does not share a “longstanding and productive strategic alliance and economic relationship” with the United States. So why should Mexico be an exception to “fair and reciprocal” trade?
Then we have right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, who back in July echoed the President’s claims that the tariffs on US allies and China were all part of a complex strategy to remove trade barriers and usher in a “really fair,” “really free,” and “really open” market. Limbaugh concluded that President Trump is “trying to level out international trade for the benefit of American manufacturers and employees at whatever harm it brings to him. He’s gonna see this through.” Will Limbaugh please explain when he returns from vacation whether free and open markets are still the goal here, or has that changed at some point?
And of course there’s Laura Ingraham, host of Fox News’s The Ingraham Angle, who has routinely decried America’s trade agreements such as NAFTA as unfair to American producers while demanding stronger, more “fair” policies. She praised the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement in August and exclaimed that it translates into “fair deals that will allow all parties to prosper,” adding “Isn’t that what we want?” Well, Laura? Isn’t it? Does sealing off the border and prohibiting commerce between America’s producers and Mexico’s markets sound “fair” to you?
Incomprehensible Tweets about “profit making operations” aside, Americans would have a lot to lose here, should this somehow prove not to be merely another empty threat. Mexico is currently America’s third largest trading partner in goods trading with $557.6 billion in total goods traded between the countries. Of this amount, US goods exported to Mexico accounted for $243.3 billion and 1.2 million American jobs.
The threat to seal off the border to Mexico is many things, but “fair” isn’t one of them. But it does give us an opportunity to find out who really believes in “fair” trade and who really just uses the concept as a crutch to justify their support of an illiberal President and his backwards, nonsensical populist policies.
The results probably won’t surprise you.