The Daily Iowan

Guest Opinion: Americans understand the value of free trade

Free trade is something that an overwhelming majority of Americans support. Trump’s tariffs do not reflect the opinions of Americans.

Ben+Schmidt+performs+routine+maintenance+on+a+combine+head+in+preparation+for+the+upcoming+harvest+on+Monday%2C+Sept.+10%2C+2018.+Schmidt+grows+corn+and+soybeans+on+his+farm+outside+of+Iowa+City.
Ben Schmidt performs routine maintenance on a combine head in preparation for the upcoming harvest on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. Schmidt grows corn and soybeans on his farm outside of Iowa City.

Ben Schmidt performs routine maintenance on a combine head in preparation for the upcoming harvest on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. Schmidt grows corn and soybeans on his farm outside of Iowa City.

Nick Rohlman

Nick Rohlman

Ben Schmidt performs routine maintenance on a combine head in preparation for the upcoming harvest on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. Schmidt grows corn and soybeans on his farm outside of Iowa City.


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Most Americans are lifelong learners and will change their mind when facts become known. Of course, despite what evidence is presented, there will always be stubborn, stick-to-their-guns individuals.

The conservative Wall Street Journal reported (Sept. 5) that a Chicago Council on Global Affairs nonpartisan survey found 82 percent of Americans believe free trade is good for the economy, an increase of 23 percentage points from two years ago.

Sixty-seven percent of Americans think free trade is also good for creating jobs, an astounding 27 percentage point increase in two years. Four out of five Americans believe expanding, not contracting exports, is best for job retention and job growth.

A stunning 85 percent of Americans think free trade is good for consumers. While the Democrats’ belief in the value of free trade increased by 16 points in the last two years, Republicans’ belief in free trade being good increased by a whopping 31 points. One hallmark of the Party of Lincoln (Republicans) has been their support of free trade, that is, until our 45th president tried to change GOP values.

Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership on Jan. 23, 2017. Now, 61 percent of Americans want Trump and Congress to get back into the pact.

What about NAFTA? Overall support for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement has increased by 10 percentage points.

Should U.S. and China exchange goods? Here’s where Trump and his most ardent supporters may have to retreat from what they think of our relationship with our trading partner — 71 percent of Americans think a continued trade war with China will hurt their pocketbooks and hometown economy. 

When Iowa’s 211,373 farmers learned that because of Trump’s trade-tariff debacle, they would receive a one penny ($0.01) per bushel of corn, $8 per pig, and $1.65 per soybean bushel reimbursement as part of the $12 billion farm-aid plan, an entitlement they didn’t want, that may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back about how they feel about the tariff policy. Trump’s $12 billion bailout just became an additional tax burden for you and me. 

Americans are seeing, firsthand, how Trump’s self-imposed trade tariffs, implemented, of course, for national-security purposes, and the ensuing trade wars are causing price increases in the goods they purchase. The facts are quite compelling and security-wise, national attack sirens remain silent. 

It’s reported that Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., flabbergasted newly elected Trump and his White House associates when he informed them that America had prospered with free trade ever since the Revolutionary War, and that the U.S. has 154 World Trade Order bilateral agreements, 20 free-trade agreements, 66 trade and investment framework agreements, 45 bilateral investment treaties, and renegotiating trade agreements requires two-thirds of the Senate’s approval. Neal said he was struck by Trump and Company’s dumbfoundedness.

I’m not shocked to learn it was no other than the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was the first to warn Americans about Trump’s nationalism and isolationist policy and its potential harm to our economy. Trump’s trade policy was the brainchild of Steve Bannon (who had never worked in government or at a policymaking institute), who in turn persuaded Trump that tariffs were good and would not cause any economic harm.

Educated Americans and wise politicians alike have known since America’s War of Independence that being an isolationist does not work.

In honor of the wisest politician of modern history, McCain (1936-2018), ask your congressional representatives to abolish any thoughts of authoritarian-isolationist-nationalism trade policy. Let’s keep America great like it has been since 1776 with open and free global-trade opportunities for all businesses.

  Steve Corbin

professor emeritus of marketing

University of Northern Iowa

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