My latest column in Politico is up today, on the obstacles Trump’s trade agenda will face within the bureaucracies.
Here’s a teaser:
Last week the Trump administration released its first formal marker of how it plans to shake up trade policy. The vehicle was an unwieldy annual document that rarely makes much news: the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s statutorily mandated report to Congress.
At 336 pages, the report is normally a cut-and-paste affair. From Clinton to Bush to Obama, US trade policy objectives haven’t changed much, and neither has the annual report. The agency dutifully ticks off the year’s accomplishments, from celebrating the job-boosting promise of new trade and investment agreements to broad statements of policy. So Obama’s 2012 report reads a lot like Bush’s 2008 report.
Enter Donald J. Trump. He moved onto Democrats’ historic electoral base in the Midwest with an unrelenting critique of that same Clinton-Bush-Obama legacy trade policy. In the first general election debate, he savaged Hillary Clinton for being part of a political dynasty that used trade deals to subject U.S. workers to grinding competition with Chinese and Mexicans. He promised to walk away from these deals, or upgrade them, and put America first.
The tension between past and future is everywhere apparent in this report, which is divided between seven pages of Trumpist rhetoric and more than 300 pages of celebration of the older approach.