Opinion | A Trade War Primer – The New York Times

At the moment, the Trumpian trade war appears to be on. And I’ve been getting some questions from readers about how this is possible. Congress, after all, hasn’t voted to back out of our trade agreements, and one suspects that it wouldn’t even if Trump asked for such legislation: to all appearances, a lot of Republicans are pretty much OK with the near-certainty that he colluded with a hostile foreign power and is currently obstructing justice, but policy actions that might strand and devalue a lot of corporate assets are something else entirely.

So how does Trump have the authority to do this? And what are the consequences for the world? It seems to me that this might be a good time to write down a brief, non-scholarly primer on how the trading system – and U.S. trade policy within that system – work.

The key thing you need to understand about trade policy is that the Econ 101 case for free trade plays very little role in actual policy, certainly in trade negotiations. That’s not because policymakers either reject that case or fail to understand it; some do, some don’t, but either way it doesn’t make that much difference. (In fairness, there’s an academic literature arguing that the underlying economics matter more than I’m suggesting, work that I consider admirable but unpersuasive.)

True, for the past 80 years the U.S. has sought to make trade gradually freer; this reflected in part the (very) indirect influence of economic theory, in part the belief that closer economic integration was good for peace and the free world alliance. But the process by which trade liberalization was sought was all about political realism rather than abstract ideals.

via Opinion | A Trade War Primer – The New York Times

Yes, and, here are the two top comments I endorsed. Note that Mr R. Law is the source of the post before this by John Brennan, CIA director to four presidents. He warns that Trump is a treat to democracy and freedom.

Rick Gage
Mt Dora

Thank you for the primer Mr. Krugman but I missed the part about bribery. You know, the part where Trump imposes trade restrictions on China because of a true national security threat from ZBT, the phone company that our security agencies pegged for espionage, but which he later rescinded when the Chinese government gave the president’s daughter 5 patents and invested half a billion dollars in a Trump resort in Indonesia, in direct violation of the emoluments clause of our laws regarding a president’s ability to profit off his position in the White House. As a matter of fact, I would start all future discussions about Trump’s trade policies with the topic of bribery, since it seems to animate and explain most of his actions.

R. Law commented June 3

R. Law

Perfect, Dr. K.

What the Rolling Trumpster Fire is now attempting (whether he knows it or not) is a reorganizing of the global trading economy, same as he reorganized our political economy with the abetting of GOP’er gatekeepers.

And it is widely agreed that the cracked prism which His Unhinged Unraveling Unfitness uses is clouded by delusions of some sort of a grand past which never existed – thus there are no American industry leaders nor union leaders who favor such tariffs, with even Paul Ryan and Sen. McConnell speaking against them.

What is being upset/destroyed is the global trading regime begun after WWII, along with driving a wedge between the U.S. and our NATO allies.

This is deadly serious business, being waged by a nincompoop who stands on the White House lawn telling us how wonderful the letter is that he’s received from North Korea – then 2 sentences later says he hasn’t even read the letter yet !

We utterly agree with everything in John Brennan’s excellent op-ed:


and would only add:

” Considering how bad things are in Trumpworld from what’s been found out, imagine how bad they really are, considering what we don’t yet know. ”

The creeping authoritarianism – aided/abetted by Complicit Banana Republicans – is a clear and present danger.


About David Lindsay Jr

David Lindsay is the author of "The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth- Century Vietnam," that covers a bloody civil war from 1770 to 1802. Find more about it at TheTaySonRebellion.com, also known as, DavidLindsayJr.com. David Lindsay is currently writing about Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction., as well as singing and performing a "folk concert" on Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction. He can be reached at daljr37(at)gmail.com.
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