It is a fair bet to suppose that President Donald Trump had no idea of how much the U.S. car manufacturers were discriminated against when he extracted a commitment from the Ford Motor Company to build Lincolns in Kentucky instead of Mexico.
And it is also quite plausible to assume that Ford did not throw the problem back at the president by pointing out rampant trade, non-trade and technical barriers to market entry — such as the ones illustrated by this simple case in East Asia — that Washington should remove with a crowbar, if necessary.
Yes Mr. President, I’ll quote your campaign trail statements that “we are being ripped off” as a result of “a bunch of ignorant kids” in Washington. But that time is over. You won. Those are now your “kids” and, above all, the “kids” following your policies.
And, yes, we know that the “free-traders” in Asia and Europe, mightily profiting from America’s misguided trade policies, will be out screaming that Washington is destroying the world’s trading system, leading to ruinous trade wars and wrecking the global economy.
Pay no attention to that nonsense. There are rules of multilateral trade relations that are worth preserving, but no such rule is designed to authorize and protect discriminatory trade practices. Countries also use wide-ranging “opt-outs” in multilateral trade agreements to protect important sectors of their economies.
Need some examples? Talk to the Japanese about selling them some rice or automobiles. Take a look at virtually any sector of the Chinese economy to see how closely it is monitored and protected. And try to sell some farm products, steel or car tires to the EU, or to penetrate their service sector markets.