Biden says "Buy American" as support for free trade hits a 25-year high

The lifelong internationalist is more persuasive about protecting the U.S. worker than he is about protecting U.S. industries.

Buy American (Made In China) Poster | Zazzle

A new Gallup poll says foreign trade is more popular today than it’s been in a quarter of a century. Fully 79 percent say it’s more “an opportunity for economic growth through increased U.S. exports” than “a threat to the economy from foreign imports.” As recently as February 2012, that percentage was only 46 percent, and through most of the aughts (both before and during the Great Recession) it stood below 50 percent.

During the Obama administration Republicans, who previously had viewed trade more favorably than Democrats, started viewing it less favorably than Democrats, and that remains the case today. But the partisan gap, which reached its widest point in 2016, has been narrowing since Trump became president, with both parties moving in the pro-trade direction.

That makes this an inauspicious moment for Joe Biden to promise he’ll be a bigger trade hawk than Donald Trump. He’s doing it to solidify his lead in Midwestern battleground states, but I don’t think it’s necessary even there. I prefer the Biden who talks about protecting U.S. workers to the Biden who talks about protecting U.S. industries. In my latest New Republic column, I explain why.

(You might also want to read this Chad Bown piece in Foreign Affairs eviscerating the claim by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lightizer that the Trump administration’s trade policies “prioritize the dignity of work.” Thanks for flagging this go to Kimberly Clausing, author of the excellent 2019 book Open: The Progressive Case For Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital.)