Trump was in Da Nang, Vietnam last week. He gave a speech there that was pretty ferocious, and I'm frankly not certain whether this is going to be a good thing or not for the United States. I'm very skeptical that it could be a good thing for us and there's a reason for this and let me tell you the reason after I tell you what's going on.
Trump was blaming predatory economic policies and accusing principally China but also the other Southeast Asian countries of stripping jobs, factories and industries out of the United States. Here's the quote...
"We can no longer tolerate these chronic trade abuses and we will not tolerate them. Despite years of broken promises, we were told that someday soon everybody would behave fairly and responsibly. People in America and throughout the Indo-Pacific region have awaited that day to come but it never has and that is why I am here today."
He said that the the other countries are not playing by the rules. He said...
"But while we lowered market barriers, other countries didn't open their markets to us."
The Guardian wrote...
"The US leader then went off-script to confront a man who was speaking audibly during the address and suggested he may be from a country that was cheating America.
'Funny, they must be from one of the beneficiaries,' Trump said, laughing. 'What country to do you come from, sir?'."
And then he says,
"The current trade imbalance is not acceptable... the United States will no longer turn a blind eye to violations, cheating, or economic aggression. Those days are over."
He said previous US administrations had not done anything about the trade deficit...
"But I will ... I am always going to put America first."
Okay. Nice rhetoric. I'm sure it plays well politically back here in the United States.
But here's the problem: Trump is blaming China and Vietnam and Mexico and South Korea and Taiwan and Malaysia and Indonesia and Bangladesh and India and the list goes on; the low-wage countries.
He's blaming them for taking our jobs. You know, we didn't have a trade deficit before the Reagan administration. The United States had been around over 200 years and we had no trade deficit when Ronald Reagan came into office, never had.
We had always been a major exporter. We were the world's manufacturing floor and then Reagan came along. Arguably Nixon started this by going to China on behalf of Pepsi Cola, but Reagan really, really cranked this up. And with this new neoconservative - neoliberal, actually - ideology of so-called free trade: 'let's just drop all trade barriers, won't it be a wonderful world.'
People can't move from country to country but everybody else can.
So if we want to blame somebody, we shouldn't be blowing in China we should be blaming ourselves.
If you want to know why all the manufacturing jobs have left the United States, look at these neoliberal policies, championed by the Republican Party and endorsed in many cases by the Democratic Party. These policies of "we're going to drop all our defenses and we're not going to ask anybody else to, we're all going to do away with tariffs but every other country gets to start a VAT tax but we don't because Grover Norquist the multi-millionaire K Street lobbyist, he doesn't like the word tax."
But a VAT tax would solve a lot of problems in the United States and it would give us a mechanism to functionally have tariffs.
We could turn this whole thing around.
We don't need the help of - or the cooperation, the participation of - China or Vietnam or anybody to do this, just like they didn't need our cooperation to basically eat our economy.