Trump’s Biggest Accomplishments Part 3: Trump Gets Tough On Trade

(Photo by Pete Marovich - Pool/Getty Images)

Bradley Devlin General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
Font Size:

President Donald Trump’s administration brokered two landmark trade deals over the course of his four-year tenure.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump claimed that the United States was getting taken advantage of through its own trade deals with other countries, as reported by The New York Times. He stressed that American jobs were fleeing to countries like Mexico and China for cheap labor. Once these companies made the move to China, they also became the victims of other unfair trade practices, Trump argued, according to BBC News. Once elected, Trump used tariffs to apply pressure on China, and brokered the Phase One trade deal with China. He also renegotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and replaced it with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Trump’s zeal to enact tariffs, particularly against China, was criticized from the left and some free-market oriented members of the right. The tariffs did seem to have a short-term negative impact on certain sectors of the U.S. economy, such as farmers looking to export agricultural goods to China, as reported by Forbes. However, Trump’s pressure campaign against the Chinese Communist Party’s trade practices, which he believed to be unfair, helped bring about the Phase One trade deal with China, according to the Brookings Institute. The Brookings Institute also said the Trump-era tariffs resulted in the highest amount of tariff revenue received by the U.S. government in the 21st century.

Chinese law requires that foreign companies hoping to operate in China must be a joint venture with a Chinese entity, often with ties to the CCP. Chinese law also stipulates that the CCP can perform forced technology transfers against these joint ventures to attain foreign companies’ technology, which is why many of the proponents of a pressure campaign against China argue that China steals intellectual property from western companies, as noted by the Wall Street Journal. (RELATED: The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act)

The trade deal with China never made it past Phase One, but the Phase One trade deal included important provisions to protect American companies and consumers that do business with China.

In terms of intellectual property protections, the deal helped companies get stronger legal protections on patents, trademarks, and copyrights, among other things, while doing business in China, Reuters reported. The deal also provides a framework to hold China accountable by leveraging technology transfers as a means of market access, according to Reuters. China also agreed to a series of large purchase agreements in American goods, all in exchange for lowering U.S. tariffs on certain Chinese goods. Other provisions targeted China’s alleged currency manipulation and barriers to its financial sector, Reuters reported.

The Trump administration also oversaw the enactment of the USMCA, which replaced the Clinton-era trade deal known as NAFTA. The deal strengthened some of the labor laws in Mexico, and provided for their enforcement so that corporations do not willingly or unwillingly abuse their workforce when they set up shop in Mexico, as reported by CNN. The USMCA also opened up Canada to more dairy products from the U.S. while keeping tariffs at zero. USMCA also revolutionized the way North American countries conduct trade by including a provision on digital trade, something NAFTA lacked, according to CNN.

Even President Joe Biden admitted during his campaign for president in 2020 that the USMCA is a better trade deal for the United States than NAFTA.