Is Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump changing his tune on trade, or was he just making it up all along?
This year, working-class voters are high-intensity opposed to trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and Trump figured that out early. Trump dominated the primaries in part because of his vocal opposition to the TPP and previous trade deals. (Trump calls TPP "ObamaTrade.")
Thursday's Morning Trade hints that Trump is "softening his position" on trade:
... [A] pair of Trump economic advisers told POLITICO that Trump is softening his position on trade. "My only point is that I think we're moving him a little bit more in a free and fair trade direction," Stephen Moore, a visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation ... said during a discussion with POLITICO's Ben White at the Republican convention in Cleveland.
As one example, Moore said it has been a while since Trump has actually talked about imposing a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods. Another Trump adviser, CNBC host Larry Kudlow, echoed that point. "I think Mr. Trump does not want to see a wall of tariffs. He's actually pushed that rhetoric aside in recent months," he said.
Trump has ultra-free-traders Stephen Moore and Larry Kudlow as "advisers," yet he claims to represent the interests of working people on trade and finance issues? Really?
Polls Say Voters Hate TPP And Past Trade Deals
The thing is, this is a big deal. Past "free trade" policies and agreements have seriously hurt America's middle and working classes, driving wages by moving good-paying jobs out of the country. Entire regions of the country have been hurt by policies of sending jobs to low-wage countries. Our manufacturing ecosystem has suffered. Our manufacturing trade deficit was over $800 billion last year.
And voters have seriously figured this out. There are still a lot of post-primary voters who have no opinion, but a recent Democracy Corps poll done for Public Citizen found that just talking to voters about past trade deals and TPP causes them to "shift dramatically" against them and against politicians who support them,
When trade arguments are married to the public’s anger with corporations and big money influence over government and politicians who no longer work for ordinary citizens, voters shift dramatically to oppose past trade pacts and the TPP.
. . . When voters hear this message, they become far more critical of past trade agreements, shift dramatically from support to opposition on TPP, and become intent on holding political leaders accountable should they vote to pass the new trade agreement. This big shift occurs after voters are exposed to a balanced contest of messages and arguments from both sides of the TPP debate. The opposition message and arguments are just much stronger.
Scan the numbers in that poll; the voter shift toward opposition is dramatic.
Trump understood this and used it to propel himself to the nomination. But now that he has secured the nomination, he is snuggling up to the very establishment and Wall Street elites he pretended to be running against.
Meanwhile Clinton Continues Opposition To TPP
Meanwhile, Democratic nominee-to-be Hillary Clinton continues to state her opposition to TPP, a position she came to from seeing the positive reception Bernie Sanders received on this. On July 12, on stage with Sanders in New Hampshire, Clinton repeated her opposition to TPP, saying, "[W]e’re going to say no to attacks on working families and no to bad trade deals and unfair trade practices, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership."
Clinton saw where the public is on this, listened to labor and heard peoples' stories of the damage bad trade policies have done to our working people, communities, economy and inequality. This opposition is going to help her a lot in the coming campaign – especially if Trump moves off his positions.
It would help Clinton's credibility on this a lot if President Obama would drop his efforts to bring TPP up for a vote after the election. If he doesn't, she is going to have to call him out on it and demand he pull TPP from consideration.