Election 2016

Who Can Free Traders Vote for in 2016? Trump, Hillary Are Dead-Set Against It.

Only Libertarian Gary Johnson supports free trade and opposes tariffs, "period."

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Zachary Moscow, Wikimedia

If the Brexit vote tells us next to nothing about domestic U.S. politics, it did reveal a strange contradiction among many left-leaning American commentators. Liberals and progressives overwhelmingly voiced solidarity with the Remain camp, often invoking as a great thing the European Union's impressive (if far from perfect) creation of a free-trade zone in which goods and services flowed freely among member states.

Ironically, many of the same people who bemoaned the Leave side winning in the United Kingdom are highly critical free-trade agreements that the United States is either already part of or trying to join. So, for instance, before the Brexit vote, an advisor for Hillary Clinton told British media that she was firmly on the Remain side of the battle: "She has always valued a strong United Kingdom in a strong EU. And she values a strong British voice in the EU." After the vote, her campaign ran an ad attacking Donald Trump for his strong support for the Leave position.

And yet, when it comes to liberalizing trade with foreign countries, both Trump and Clinton hold essentially the same position of being adamantly opposed. Trump has denounced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed into law by Clinton's husband in 1993, and has said his first order of business if elected will be to renegotiate its terms or pull out of it. As it happens, Clinton has been attacking NAFTA as a mistake since at least 2007, when she first started running for president. Her campaign website for the 2008 race proclaimed, "NAFTA was negotiated more than 14 years ago, and Hillary believes it has not lived up to its promises." And at a 2007 presidential debate, she said, "NAFTA was a mistake to the extent that it did not deliver on what we had hoped it would." Indeed, she even called "for a trade timeout."

Pew Research

Let's leave aside for the moment that both Trump's and Clinton's negative evaluation of NAFTA is entirely wrong. The U.S. economy and job market flourished in the wake of its implementation in 1994 and most economists say that it has had smaller but positive effects than either its champions or detractors feared.

Clinton and Trump also see eye-to-eye on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the other big trade deal that's front and center in the 2016 election. Trump, who in an early GOP debate didn't seem to realize that China was the target of the pact and not a participant in it, describes TPP as "a continuing rape of our country." Clinton's rhetoric is milder, but her position is just as plain. Despite supporting the Obama administration's continuing efforts to broker the 12-nation deal while secretary of state, she is now absolutely against it. "I am not in favor of what I have learned about it," she told CNN last fall:

I have said from the very beginning that we had to have a trade agreement that would create good American jobs, raise wages and advance our national security and I still believe that is the high bar we have to meet… I don't believe it's going to meet the high bar I have set.

Fact-checker sites agree that Clinton has flip-flopped on this issue, almost certainly in reaction to Bernie Sanders' unrestrained and popular denunciations of anything related to free-er trade during the Democratic primaries. But there's no reason to believe she will be changing her tune anytime soon.

So both of the presumptive nominees for the two major parties are anti-free-trade deals. As important, neither of them has a kind word to say about free trade in principle. Each of them sees trade as a means by which powerful nations exert pressure on less-powerful nations to do things a certain way, whether it's pricing items so they're not competitive with American products or enacting all sorts of environmental and labor regulations that will drive up costs (that "high bar" of which Clinton speaks).

Interestingly, Donald Trump's position is actually in line with how the typical Republican feels about free trade agreements. In research released earlier this spring, Pew found that 53 percent of voters who identify as Republican or who lean Republican agree that free trade deals "have been a bad thing for the United States." Only 38 percent disagreed. When it comes to Democrats and those who lean Democrat, only 34 percent think trade deals have been a bad thing, while fully 56 percent think they have been a good thing.

Thus Trump—who has often been accused of "stealing" the Republican Party from its rightful establishment—is in lockstep with actual GOP voters. And Hillary Clinton, who bemoans the end of the United Kingdom's membership in the planet's largest free-trade zone, is at loggerheads with what the large majority of rank-and-file Democrats believe. That Democrats, long considered the party of unions and economic protectionism, actually favor free trade more than Republicans is yet one more sign that the two major parties no longer represent viable coalitions of ideologies and interest groups. The current iterations of each party traces back to the mid-1960s, when Southern Democrats started to swith allegiances and Republicans embraced Goldwaterism. What broad agreements each party reached with its constituents seem to have frayed to a point where party leadership seems to be radically out of touch with what members actually believe. That, along with general disbelief in the competency of either party to govern, explains the huge and continuing fall in voter identification with either the Dems or the Reps.

If you are looking for a presidential candidate who believes that free trade and free trade agreements are generally good things, there's only the Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, who has consistently criticized Trump's calls for trade wars with China and other countries and says Clinton's "answer for everything is more government."

"Free trade," he told MSNBC earlier this week,

doesn't mean forcing Apple to make their iPads and iPhones in the United States, that doesn't mean a 35% tariff on imported goods….Let's rule the world with free trade. Let's bring peace to the world. Let's involve ourselves diplomatically.

Elsewhere, his position is quoted as being:

Johnson supports free trade and opposes tariffs, "period."

So there's that.

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  1. For just a second my heart leapt as I mis-read the alt-text as “Hillary Clinton on trial”.

    1. On trial in the court of public opinion. Verdict? PRESIDENTIAL!

      1. She’s been *vindicated*!

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  2. Or, alternatively, Gary Johnson favors a universal tariff, even on domestic industry.

  3. “I am not in favor of what I have learned about it,” she told CNN last fall:

    She learned that the idiot populists like Trump and Sanders had soiled the concept of free trade with their lies and like the political whore she is changed her tune to win an election.

    1. No cankle juice for shreek tonight.

    2. It was unfortunate but necessary. The Sanders cult deemed TPP evil, so she would never have heard the end of it. Being labeled a lying flipflopper was actually preferable to having to spend time defending something that can’t really be defended with slogans alone but requires appreciating a large amount of nuance. Not the Sanders people’s strong suit.

      1. I’m a little shocked, Tony. I would have expected you to go full retard and be a Bernie bro. All we need is some readings of Nozick and Bastiat burned into your eyeballs Clockwork Orange style and we’ll make a libertarian out of you yet.

        1. This is what I am talking about. The Democrats have always been at war with Eurasia in favor of free trade.

        2. I’ve been a party man for a long time. I was out of the phase where it was cool to be ideologically pure and nonpartisan by the time I graduated high school.

  4. That’s an unexpected headline. I thought that Hillary is pro free trade, and it’s Trump and Bernie who are against it. Now I guess I need to go back and read the article.

    The idea that all of these old factory jobs are coming back to the USA is highly delusional. Those jobs are in the permanent dustbin of history. They either stay in China or somewhere else where you can pay people far below the minimum wages set by first world Western countries, or they get automated. So you can potentially bring that mfg back here, but the jobs will be automated so that a factory that previously employed 1000 people making widgets is going to employ 10 people. Either that or you have to get enough people who are willing to pay $20 for their widget that they’ve been paying $1-2 for. That’s not going to happen and everyone knows it. To give a real world example. Let’s talk about making iPhones here in the USA. I’m sure the hipsters are not going to have issue with $5000 phones.

    1. Weren’t you watching the last 9 months? Clinton has basically stolen every plank in Sanders’ presidential platform except healthcare (trade included). And healthcare is just from Obama instead.

    2. We need to dramatically reduce productivity to get back that level of industrial employment. Remember the story about Milton Friedman and the road construction?

      1. SPOOOOOOONNNN!!!

      2. As I’ve said before: You want a hole dug for a swimming pool in your backyard and a guy shows up and tells you for $1500 he can have his backhoe over in a couple of hours and you’ll have a hole by this afternoon. Then I show up with my trusty rusty tablespoon and tell you for $30,000 you’ll have a hole by the end of November. You’re going to hire me because I’m working so much harder and my hourly rate is only 10% of the guy with the backhoe, right?

        1. The idea that jobs represent the health of aconomy is just perverse. But, it’s ingrained in the psyche of ‘Mericans, so much so that they become immune to contrary evidence.

          “JERBS!”
          “But, those are old and inefficient industries, with out-of-date technology. They’re actually a drain on the economy that raise cost of doing business and the prices of their products.”
          “JERBS!”

          Remember that the Japanese were going to take us over in the 80’s, with their superior technology that required fewer workers with higher quality and output.

    3. There is plenty of manufacturing in the US. It’s just not the same creaking industries that it was.

      http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB…..3274221570

  5. If you are looking for a presidential candidate who believes that free trade and free trade agreements are generally good things, there’s only the Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson…

    Until CNN brings on a mother whose son was left brain damaged by free trade coffee.

    1. I told mum to shut up about that.

  6. Liberals and progressives overwhelmingly voiced solidarity with the Remain camp

    You know, I really find it shocking that Western statists agree with other Western statists.

  7. I look forward to an actual article from Reason about why the TPP is actually ‘free trade’ rather than simply protectionism for dollar-based investments that are already overseas.

    I won’t hold my breath since its pretty clear that Reason is nothing more than the dingleberry-munchers for those multinationals and Davos crowd that wrote the pact in the first place.

    1. 18,000 US export tariffs are eliminated by the TPP.

      1. That doesn’t mean exports are going to those countries. China has already obliterated many of our industries. The addition of vietnam as a market doesn’t do squat for an industry that no longer exists in the US.

        1. Seriously if you look at the math and trade flows here – TPP is INTENDED to expand our trade deficit (ie export dollars as reserve currency) to another couple of countries. The only beneficiary of that is that multinationals will be able to deploy profits from China into Vietnam in order to bring stuff back into the US from a different location. That is NOT ‘trade’ as any economics text defines it. It is merely capital flow.

          1. Trade deficit? More cheap goods from foreigners? The horror! [Swoons].

            1. Like it or not – trade deficits are only mathematically sustainable in two ways. Either the currency falls and corrects the imbalance – or the currency itself is a monopolized reserve currency.

              In the former case, the falling currency eliminates the paper wealth created by bogus trade flows – leaving only true comparative advantage.

              In the latter, EVERY ‘trade’ deal intended to perpetuate it is nothing but a form of mercantilism – protecting the reserve currency (and the sector that produces it) from competition so that it can remain a reserve currency.

              Our $785 billion trade deficit is only sustainable because the largest trade surplus countries (Saudi – 252; Russia – 198; China – 155; UAE – 80; Kuwait – 73; Qatar – 72; Norway – 68; Nigeria – 64; Iran – 63) have their exports priced in DOLLARS. Not because imports to the US deliver much value to Americans. The trade deficit is FORCED – the dollar drives the deficits not our ‘demand’ for cheap crap.

              The only exception in those large surplus countries is Germany/Netherlands – and their trade numbers (along with India since gold isn’t considered ‘currency’ in those stats – and rest of eurozone) are wonky because they include eurozone surpluses which are creating their own internal eurozone problems.

              1. What is a “bogus trade flow”?

                1. A trade flow that is forced by the currency rather than the stuff.

    2. I think they’ve been pretty realistic that it’s freeER trade, not free trade. Larded with cronyism, but still, it’s better than nothing.

      1. Yes. Whereas Trump isn’t saying he wants “really Free Trade”. he just wants a “better deal” for US workers. Which basically means he wants the deal to be rigged *even more* in favor of certain domestic interests. He’s not even pretending to want a level playing field. He’s explicitly saying he wants the playing field to be tilted.

      2. It also spreads around more draconian copyright and patent rules, making it anti-freedom. It’s not “better than nothing”.

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    4. One can see here a case study in how Republican leaning libertarians will try to rationalize being at war with Eastasia opposition to free trade agreements, in order to maintain their Republican leaning identity in the new Trump era of the party.

      1. I’m a big-L Libertarian. I’ve voted R for Prez four times in my life – 2000, 1992, 1988, 1984. I don’t give a fuck about Trump. Nor do I respect – in the slightest – the meme of ‘free trade’ which now has NOTHING to do with actual economics and everything to do with propping up Wall St and multinational cronies. And Reason is just one more in the crowd of libertarian whores to both DC and Wall St.

  8. Trump has denounced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed into law by Clinton’s husband in 1993, and has said his first order of business if elected will be to renegotiate its terms or pull out of it.

    Diagnostic problem. What we have here, is a failure to communicate.

    NAFTA was a jobs-killer. Go ahead and say it out loud, the stupid redneck bitter clingers already know it. Further, those jobs deserved to die. We certainly tell them that part of it.

    We kill innovation in the cradle with barriers to entry, occupational licencing schemes and protectionism for me but not for thee. In the great Darwinism of the markets, the death of the unfit jobs is not the problem, it’s the strangling of fitter ones that would replace them.

  9. I’m all for actual free trade – no tariffs on products going either direction with friendly countries.

    I get kind of anxious when that idea morphs into a bureaucratic sovereignty-ceding mess.

    1. Whose sovereignty does it cede and how?

      1. See “EU” for example.

        What started out as a customs union (anyone remember the terms “The Common Market” or “The European Economic Community”?) morphed into way too much regulation of labor, employment, standards, transportation, etc. The excuse is always “well, it is related to …”

        Better to stick to a “Zollverein”.

        1. The sovereignty of extant nations is way overrated. It means respecting arbitrary lines on a map and endorsing a competitive spirit across those lines. Unity in Europe, despite any diminishing of individual country’s autonomy, ended centuries of nonstop warfare culminating in global catastrophe. You can’t say it’s a bad thing on balance.

          1. Don’t you know that for the half-century post-World War II and before the Maastricht Treaty all European countries were at each other’s throat? And no unified Europe has every been at war (cough, cough, three centuries between the reign of Commodus and Romulus Augustulus, cough, cough).

          2. While I’m not a fan of many of the EU’s internal policies, the lowering of internal barriers to trade and movement of people has to be counted as a net plus for individual liberty.

          3. Unity in Europe has little to do with the EU. It has everything to do with the US subsidizing their defense spending so that Germany lost the urge to rearm. And now that they’ve seemingly permanently lost that urge – and we keep subsidizing whatever ‘need’ does exist, they can simply use what they would have spent to subsidize everyone else in Europe to go along with their mercantilism.

            The EU falls apart the second the US decides NATO has outlived its purpose.

            1. Then it would pay for us not to decide that. Whatever contributes to stability is a good thing.

  10. “Oh my God, she’s so beautiful and she’s so little!”‘

    1. Coincidentally, that’s what my wife said the first time she saw my penis.

    2. She looks like she’s molting.

      1. The sidebar on H&R had a “I’m with her” Hillary ad (they must have detected shriek being on) – the picture was an awful black & white on that looks like it should have been in an attack ad against her. Who the Hell is running Granny Graft’s campaign?!

  11. Liberals and progressives overwhelmingly voiced solidarity with the Remain camp, often invoking as a great thing the European Union’s impressive (if far from perfect) creation of a free-trade zone in which goods and services flowed freely among member states.

    I don’t know. All of the progs I’ve heard are simply complaining about the alleged “xenophobia” of the Leave voters. I think they’re just pissed because someone dared to secede from a glorious collective.

  12. Mr Gillespie, the answer is staring you right in the face.

    Stay home in November. Don’t vote for any of the losers! Don’t vote for Trump. Don’t vote for Hillary. Don’t vote for Johnson. Don’t vote for whatever savage death worshiper is the Green nominee.

    Unsuitable people win elections because delusional fools keep voting for them!

    1. You do realize that someone is going to win the election right?

      1. It sure is a sad situation when the options are:
        *shoot self in left foot
        *shoot self in right foot
        *injure left and right foot equally

        This voting for one of two or three not particularly good choices sucks. How do we fix that problem? I realize one of them will win the election, the problem is they then think we approve of them, instead of the reality that we chose who we thought sucked the least…

        1. It sure is a sad situation when the options are:
          *shoot self in left foot
          *shoot self in right foot
          *injure left and right foot equally

          That’s an inapt analogy:

          You aren’t part of the government. It’s not part of you. Sure they’ll steal your shit, and/or kidnap you for breaking their rules, but once you emotionally accept that they are no different than the Winter Hill mob, you will be far less bothered by the lack of a suitable choice.

          If you lived in a monarchy, would you agonize over the question of whether the current prince was developing properly or becoming a simpleton or a sociopath? It would be an issue of concern but it wouldn’t pose a decision you would agonize over. Similarly, do you agonize over the question as to which successor to Whitey Bulger would make a better head of the Winter Hill mob? No! It would be absurd! You might have an opinion, sure, but in the end it wouldn’t be a choice you needed to put effort into. Because it’s not your choice, is it?

          Same deal in a presidential election. We know either Clinton or Trump will be on top. Neither will be acceptable. Nevertheless, we must accept that which we cannot change and focus on the things we do have control over.

          1. You’re probably right that I could be far less bothered by the lack of a suitable choice if didn’t actually care about what direction our country moves in, but I have kids, and grandkids, and I’d actually like to make a choice I felt was a good one for their interests as well as mine. Which has not much effect on anything, but I can’t figure out how to just not give a damn.

        2. The Republicans chose their favorite candidate and the Democrats did the same. There will always be people on the fringes who hate both by default. That would be you (and a whole bunch of Bernie supporters). Whatever floats your boat.

          1. Why would you think I hate both choices by default? Is that some way to try and fit others into a box so you can dismiss them? I wish there were choices I thought were more capable of the enormous tasks a President undertakes. I make choices on merit, not on the color of the team jersey. This time around, that seems like a false choice. That’s what floats my boat.

        3. I think “*injure left and right foot equally” sounds like a pretty good option, considering we actually have more than two feet.

          Down with the current two parties.
          Let’s kill at least one of them and see what happens.

      2. Of course. The world is full of stupid people who will pull a lever for Hillary or Trump. They are so legion that we are guaranteed to get a deceitful, corrupt honorless crook plumping his or her fat ass in the oval office.

        But, if smart people kept proclaiming the truth that we shouldn’t waste our votes on unsuitable bozos, two phenomena will emerge:
        1) The winning bozo will command less automatic obedience.
        2) A non-bozo might occasionally win.

        The alternative, strategic voting, will possibly keep the most awful person from occupying a government office after a particular election, but ensures that people like Hillary Clinton will be major party candidates in all future elections.

        1. We go through a painstaking primary process to vet and choose candidates for president. One might call it overkill even. It’s not my fault Republicans chose a spray-tanned assclown this time. The only strategic voting that is possible in our system is to vote for one of the two major party candidates. Anything else enables the one you least like, as it is 100% certain that one of the two will win.

          There are plenty of reforms we could do with, but expecting the people to spontaneously collude on a plan to undo the basic math of a winner-take-all ballot is magical thinking.

          1. But Tony, once one party (presumably the Democrats) have a solid electoral majority, there is no reason for either R’s or D’s to continue voting for one of the two shitheels running. If Hillary is a safe winner, it’s safe to vote for a third party. If Trump is a sure loser, it’s safe to vote for a third party. The D’s NEED the R’s to be a viable force in order to keep up the logic that people HAVE TO vote for Clinton. It only works if it’s a close election.

            What we might see this election is that Trump is such an obvious loser that the logic breaks down. You don’t HAVE TO vote for one of the two extremes. You can vote for someone in the middle. Someone that combines the better parts of each side.

          2. . It’s not my fault Republicans chose a spray-tanned assclown this time.

            Nor is it your fault that the Democrats selected someone whose sole accomplishment was fucking Bill Clinton and lining her pocket with bribes, and who has had every public policy she supported fail disastrously (or be rejected because it was obvious it would fail disastrously).

            It is your fault for voting for her. It is your fault for voting for an obviously narcissistic and predictably lawless buffoon like Barack Obama, twice! It is your fault for voting for a to-talent assclown like John Kerry.

            You see, the reason why political parties are dominated by corrupt, venal, or mentally disordered monsters are because people like you,,, just… can’t… resist voting for them.

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  14. The only candidate for smaller government and against tariffs. Check, check.

  15. When is “reason staff” going to put up a post about Bernie!s op-ed frothing diatribe in the NYT?

    There’s much to like, but I particularly enjoyed his shrieks about teh giant kkkorporationsn while completely ignoring the role of government in incentivizing massive consolidation.

    1. Surprise, surprise. Workers in Britain, many of whom have seen a decline in their standard of living while the very rich in their country have become much richer, have turned their backs on the European Union and a globalized economy that is failing them and their children

      Kind of like workers in different US states would like to turn their back on the American Union, AKA Washington DC…

  16. There is plenty of manufacturing in the US. It’s just not the same creaking industries that it was.

    WE AIN’T MAKE NUTHEN HERE NO MOAR!

    1. Hillary won’t rest until American children can enjoy their God-given right to assemble iPhones for 16h/day for a few dollars a day! Hillary’s mission is to turn the US into a China-style manufacturing powerhouse! Don’t you forget it, guys and gals!

  17. if smart people kept proclaiming the truth that we shouldn’t waste our votes on unsuitable bozos

    Unfortunately, I have better things to do than go to a political rally personality-cult revival meeting and chant, “BULL SHIT! BULL SHIT!” for an hour or two.

  18. What we’re seeing is a bit of a realignment in the opposite direction that libertarians might have expected.

    Because Trump has seized the anti-trade mantle, Republicans are aligning themselves behind that position, while the Democrats are shifting towards the more pro-free-trade position. There are votes up for grabs and the logic of the two-party system impels one side or the other to grab them.

    This is actually, in some ways a more consistent position. Anti-immigration and anti-trade positions have in common nationalist attitudes, and pro-immigration, pro-trade position have in common internationalist attitudes.

    It is entirely possible where we might see a ‘We have always been at ear with Eurasia’ paradigm flip on the Republican and Democratic parties. Clinton signed NAFTA, after all, so the D’s might decide to jettison the anti-globalization movement and become a more market-friendly party, if only on trade issues.

    it would not be a great thing for libertarians, because the D’s would still be less libertarian than the R’s were in the past, but it might place the newly aligned Democratic party closer to libertarianism than the newly aligned Republican party of Donald Trump.

    1. This is actually, in some ways a more consistent position. Anti-immigration and anti-trade positions have in common nationalist attitudes, and pro-immigration, pro-trade position have in common internationalist attitudes.

      The EU is both anti-immigration and anti-free-trade. The only countries that “enjoy” freer trade and movement are those that have been vetted by the EU bigwigs and found to be non-threatening to their political interests. And that kind of EU hostility to freedom is precisely why American progressives are so fond of the EU.

  19. He says “I support free trade PERIOD” now, but he’s been acting like a moderate republican for quite a while now.

    On drugs he says “legalize marijuana only”. Which is perfectly safe and in with the crowd.

    Free trade is a losing cause among the electorate in general. If he makes it to the debate stage he’ll be instantly double teamed by the other two who will be eager to peel off the support that’s going to him.

  20. How the Free Trade Agenda is knovcking down America

    http://www.thenewamerican.com/files/TNA2917.pdf

  21. We can start by defining a free market as one based upon freedom of association — and amazing ! That definition contains it own moral defense!

    Those opposing free markets necessarily oppose freedom of association.

  22. More lies from the lying liar, Nick Gillespie, at unReason. Trump is not a protectionist. He wants trade, but he wants a true level trading field, not the scam the federal mafia and Wall Street is giving us now that destroys jobs here and sends them over the border. Nick Gillespie is a lying fraud and he proves it every time he writes his lies about Trump. Gillespie is no libertarian, he’s an elitist prick who who should lose his head along with the rest of the globalist traitors.

  23. “Free” is for lunches . . . not trade. Gotta’ get with the program.

  24. What significant, meaningful “free trade” deals has the EU concluded? Merkel is using the EU and the vassal states that she has gathered around her to bully and bludgeon other countries into trade concessions; actual free trade deals are nowhere to be seen. With actual free trade, there also wouldn’t be Germany’s massive trade imbalance. The EU is anti-free-trade, and that is precisely why the American left likes the EU so much.

  25. It is a lie to say Trump is anti-free trade. He is against the anti-free trade treaties y’all have sucked down wholesale just because some flunkie told you they were free trade treaties. Truthfully, an honest free trade treaty would have to outlaw union contracts just as surely as it outlawed trade in items produced by slave, prison and otherwise forced labor. None of them do that. A free trade treaty would have to enforce a monetary standard like a gold standard; at the very least a standard untouchable by governments bent on controlling dthe economy. A free trade treaty would have to eliminate occupational licensing or make it universal. A free trade treary would mean free banking without governmental atructures that differ across national boundaries. NONE of them do any of ths. But you libertarians got it in your head that to be against these unfair trade treaties is to be against free trade. There’s a five letter word for people who think like that.
    Trump is anti managed trade.

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