The most recent presidential debate has illustrated that Democrats are trying desperately to define their identity in the era of President Trump. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than on the topic of trade policy, where some Democrats reluctantly find themselves in agreement with the president.
Democrats have traditionally resisted the idea of free trade in recent decades, but with the election of President Trump, many Republican legislators are now skeptical as well.
On the left, Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have historically been against free trade agreements that don’t put America’s interests first, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and for revitalizing American manufacturing.
On the right, former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan and current President Donald Trump have historically been against blanket free trade as well, stressing the need for fair trade while emphasizing the importance of a robust American manufacturing sector. President Trump famously canceled TPP on day one of his presidency.
Consistent with his opposition to globalist, anti-competitive trade deals, President Trump moved early on to protect American companies in the washer industry, detailing import tariffs as high as 50 percent. This was in response to a surge in washing machine imports between 2012 and 2016 that resulted in a multimillion-dollar market share losses for domestic companies like Whirlpool.
Consequently, in May 2017, Whirlpool, an American manufacturer, filed a petition with the bipartisan U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to protest practices by South Korean-based Samsung and LG, which were shifting production to foreign countries not covered by previous legislative actions to combat unfair trade practices. President Trump agreed with the petition and imposed safeguard measures in January 2018 to create a level playing field and make trade fair for the washer industry.
The result? Despite globalist studies arguing that safeguards slow economic growth and harm the economy, the reality of the situation is anything but. Samsung and LG both announced plans to build big factories in South Carolina and Tennessee, which ultimately resulted in the creation of 16,000 American jobs. On top of that, Whirlpool added another 200 U.S. jobs despite $250 million worth of increasing costs for raw materials such as steel and resin. This allowed our U.S. Treasury to collect an additional $82 million in import duties, highlighting the fact that only American workers pay taxes to America.
Whirlpool employs 22,000 U.S. employees overall and 15,000 in manufacturing. Eighty percent of the products Whirlpool sells in American are assembled in America in one of its nine domestic facilities.
I have several Whirlpool appliances throughout my home, some of which were new when my house was built back in 1995. That is a real testimony to Whirlpool quality.
President Trump knows that keeping American companies profitable is vital to America’s prosperity. Whirlpool has invested $1.4 billion in domestic plants since 2010, which would not have happened had we not put a priority on protecting homegrown companies from predatory foreign competitors, of which there is never a shortage.
The message is clear. Manufacturing stimulates economic growth more than any other industry. China smartly focused on manufacturing to transform itself from a third-world nation to the world’s second-largest economy.
The mass loss of manufacturing jobs is why we are on our way to going from the world’s largest economy to the world’s second-largest economy. This all didn’t just happen out of the blue for no reason. It all happened because we practiced free trade with a protectionist China and lost our focus on manufacturing.
Fortunately, many Democrats agree we need to be more protective of our domestic industries. In March 2018, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said President Trump deserved “a big pat on the back” in a speech on the Senate floor regarding a White House plan to apply $50 billion in tariffs on China. Schumer also said Trump is “doing the right thing when it comes to China” as “we have watched China rapaciously take advantage of America: of American jobs, of American workers, and of American intellectual property.”
On CNN’s State of the Union with Jim Acosta in March 2018, Sen. Elizabeth Warren had this to say on trade: “What I’d like to see us do is rethink all of our trade policy. And, I have to say, when President Trump says he’s putting tariffs on the table, I think tariffs are one part of reworking our trade policy overall.”
On June 1, 2018, Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “I strongly support imposing stiff penalties on countries like China, Russia, South Korea, and Vietnam to prevent them from illegally dumping steel and aluminum into the U.S. and throughout the world.”
The U.S. should not be seen as a place for China and other foreign countries to dump cheap and state-subsidized products to maintain the desired market share here. America is not some playground for foreign producers eager to fulfill their predatory and injurious economic strategies.
We made a mistake in granting Most Favored Nation (MFN) status to China in 1980. It is time that we reserve it for our own nation.