“Libertarians, Free Trade And Donald Trump”, By Farid Kahhat | WORLD

Although those who define themselves as libertarians in the United States prefer by a large majority to vote for Republican candidates, that majority was reduced when Donald Trump sought re-election.

As Trump dramatically increased spending and public regulation to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, journalist Peter Nicholas published an article in The Atlantic magazine titled “No Libertarians in an Epidemic.” Then people belonging to that movement argued that the Trump administration was not libertarian.

Eric Boehm, for example, answered the following: “The same government that erects barriers to free trade, that makes it more difficult for people to enter the United States, that saves industries that it favors for political reasons, (…), that tries to regulate freedom of expression on the internet, that sues the press in an attempt to violate the First Amendment of the Constitution, (…). That government? Is that the libertarian government? “

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The paradox is that Latin American libertarians did seem to close ranks after Trump’s candidacy. And to justify it, they defended their political conduct with implausible arguments. Argentine Javier Milei, for example, denied that Trump’s trade policy was protectionist, claiming that he only sought to correct the distortions caused by the protectionism of other states.

Although such protectionism exists, Trump always made it clear that his objectives went beyond a mere attempt to eliminate the distortions that he himself caused in international trade. For example, when he declared that “The United States has an annual trade deficit of 800 billion dollars because of our stupid agreements and policies. (…) What we want is to have back those 800 billion ”. That is, trade deficits are a loss to the economy itself, and the goal of trade policy should be to eliminate them. If, as Milei argues, Trump’s sole objective had been to force his trading partners to abandon protectionist practices, he would have limited himself to seeking to make them accept fair rules of the game, without prejudging the result that those rules should produce.

But, as we saw, Trump’s priority was not to seek that all states trade under the same rules, but to change the results of their commercial relationship. They show that not only that its stated objective was to eliminate the trade deficit, but also that, for example, in its preliminary agreement with China it required it to buy preset amounts of specific goods that that country imports from the United States. If its objective had been limited to forcing other states to respect rules that promote free trade, it would not have prevented, in 2017, the adoption of a final declaration at the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), nor would it have blocked the renewal of the judges that make up the appeals body of the WTO (entity that ensures compliance with these rules).

In terms of intellectual property, it is true that Article 7 of the Chinese intelligence law establishes that “Every organization or citizen must support, assist and cooperate with the intelligence work of the State”: that was a reason that Trump alleged to demand that its allies to exclude Huawei from the laying of its 5G network (that is, the fifth generation of telecommunications technology). But Trump himself made it clear that this was not his only goal, declaring that “we cannot allow any country to surpass the United States in this powerful industry of the future.” That is to say, again, the fundamental thing was the result of the game, and not that its rules were fair.

In case anecdotal evidence is needed, do you really believe that Trump raised tariffs on aluminum imports from Canada (one of the main US allies in the world), for “national security” reasons?

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