Thursday, June 8, 2017

President Trump's Trade Policy Agenda

President Trump's Trade Policy Agenda
by David Trumbull
June 9, 2017

On March 1, 2017, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative released President Trump's 2017 Trade Policy Agenda, I quote from the document:

"In 2016, voters in both major parties called for a fundamental change in direction of U.S. trade policy. The American people grew frustrated with our prior trade policy not because they have ceased to believe in free trade and open markets, but because they did not all see clear benefits from international trade agreements. President Trump has called for a new approach, and the Trump Administration will deliver on that promise."

President Trump wasted no time in implementing that "fundamental change in direction." On the Monday after the Friday he took office for his first term, he reversed what was supposed to be one of President Obama's most significant foreign policy and trade achievements. On January 23. 2017, President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership ("TPP"), the largest free trade agreement ever signed.

Among the eleven countries other than the U.S. were six with whom we already had free trade agreements. Apparently, they were included to just to make the deal bigger. Among the other five: Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Vietnam, two, Japan and New Zealand, are modern, Western-style democracies with level of economic development comparable to the U.S. In other words, if a good bi-lateral free trade agreement can be negotiated with any nation, those two would be good candidates.

As for the rest of the lot to whom President Obama wanted to give preferential access to our market. Well, according to the U.S. Department of State --

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an authoritarian state ruled by a single party, the Communist Party of Vietnam. There are severe government restrictions of citizens' political rights, particularly their right to change their government through free and fair elections; limits on citizens' civil liberties, including freedom of assembly, association, and expression; and inadequate protection of citizens' due process rights, including protection against arbitrary detention. The government maintains limits on workers' rights to form and join independent unions and does not enforce safe and healthy working conditions adequately. Child labor persists, especially in agricultural occupations.

The most significant human rights problems in Malaysia include government restrictions on freedoms of speech and expression, press and media, assembly, and association. Restrictions on freedom of religion are also a significant concern--including bans on religious groups, restrictions on proselytizing, and prohibitions on the freedom to change one's religion. Other human rights problems include deaths during police apprehension and while in custody; laws allowing detention without trial; caning as a form of punishment imposed by criminal and "sharia" (Islamic law) courts; restrictions on the rights of migrants, including migrant workers, refugees, and victims of human trafficking; official corruption; violence and discrimination against women; and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons. The government restricts union and collective-bargaining activity, and government policies created vulnerabilities for child labor and forced labor problems, especially for migrant workers.

Brunei Darussalam is a monarchy governed since 1967 by Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah under emergency powers in place since 1962 that place few limits on his authority. The most serious human rights problems were the inability of citizens to choose their government through free and fair elections, restrictions on religious freedom, and exploitation of foreign workers. Other human rights problems include limitations on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association. The partial implementation of a sharia-based penal code continues to raise significant human rights concerns. The country did not ratify the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which it signed in 2015.

Do these sound like the governments we should be do favors for? Thank you President Trump for pulling us out of the swamp that is the TPP.