As a centrist who is fiscally conservative, pro-business, believes in equality on all fronts and understands 87 percent of America’s GDP is from the business sector, I’m alarmed as our economy is headed to a dangerous cliff.

President Ronald Reagan (Republican, 1981-1989) often expressed how free trade and open markets were key components to economic growth and international security. America’s first international trade agreement was created under his leadership in 1985.

Today, more than 300,000 U.S. companies employ 41 million Americans who are involved in international trade. Lawmakers know the road to economic recovery from a recession and continued prosperity is paved with trading partners.

President Trump’s first executive order, issued Jan. 23, was to withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. America has 14 other free trade agreements with 20 countries.

The populist, authoritarian and nationalist movement of “America first trade policy,” proposed to President Trump by Stephen Bannon (executive chairman, Breitbart News), has caused a historic shift for the United States. Trump’s confrontation with TPP, NAFTA and World Trade Organization, to name a few, has pitted his hostile nationalist agenda against an American tradition of practical internationalism.

The conservative Wall Street Journal has clearly warned citizens the Bannon-Trump policy will hurt our economy and the average American worker.

How important is international trade to Iowans? In Iowa, 456,300 jobs (1 in 5) are linked to international trade. Over 3,420 Iowa companies are involved in the export industry. Customers from 196 countries and territories buy Iowa-made goods and services.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “America depends far more on the global economy than it did two decades ago and international trade and foreign investment are increasingly vital to U.S.”

Business groups and lawmakers throughout America lament Trump walked away from TPP while throwing our 11 trading partner countries under the bus. On Nov. 11, those 11 countries reached an agreement between themselves to further trade while ignoring America.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a member of the committee that oversees trade, said, “I’m more concerned about what they might do renegotiating existing agreements than what they do bilaterally with countries they don’t have agreements with.”

Regarding Trump’s NAFTA renegotiation, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said, “I have been worried because other countries have pushed back: You want us to build a wall, well we’re not going to take your corn. If we’re talking about renegotiating NAFTA, we actually stand to lose ground in agriculture, so we would really have to work that very, very carefully.”

After three decades of America opening up trade markets, the dominoes of Trump’s “America first” policy are falling, and it is alarming. John Murphy, international policy vice president, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said, “Industry after industry is engaged in fierce global competition. There is a sense in which the United States is standing still, while countries around us are moving forward.”

Russia and China, especially, have the most to gain from Bannon-Trump’s international trade mistake. It’s obvious why Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping were so hospitable to Trump during his recent Asia trip.

Steve Corbin is an emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa.


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