WATCH: Free Trade, Fair Trade, Economic Nationalism?
President Donald Trump spoke a to a meeting of the National Governors Association last night, where he touched on issues of free trade, fair trade, and the border adjustment tax (BAT).
The president appeared to be endorsing the BAT, which has been the subject of some confusion since Trump took office. The BAT would impose a tax on imports and is part of a House Republican plan to reduce corporate income taxes. Earlier on in the administration, press secretary Sean Spicer mistakenly identified the BAT as part of a scheme to get Mexico to pay for a border wall. (As things stand now, the border wall, if it is built, will be funded by US taxpayer dollars.)
Trump also claimed to be a both a free trader, a fair trader, and an economic nationalist.
“I believe in free trade,” Trump said. “I want so much trade–somebody said, oh, maybe he’s a total nationalist–which I am, in a true sense–but I want trade. I want great trade between countries.”
The application of the BAT, the president explained, has to do with fairness and reciprocation with the practices of other countries.
“We’re one of the only countries in the world that people can sell their product into us and have no tax, no nothing, and they get rich,” the president said. “And yet if you want to do business with them, you’ll have taxes, I’ve seen, as high as 100 percent. So they sell into us, no problem; we sell into them–because we don’t sell them because the tax is so high that they don’t want us to sell into them.
“So I know that’s always been a point of contention, but to me it’s just fair,” Trump continued. “It’s just fair. It’s reciprocal. It’s fair. And so we’re going to be doing a lot of work on that, and that’s becoming a very, very important factor–fairness.”
The term free trade, the president claimed, “is very deceiving, because it’s good for them, it’s not good for us.” “I want fair trade,” Trump added. “And if we’re going to be taxed, they should be taxed at the same amount, the other countries. And one of two things is going to happen: We’re going to make a lot of money or the other country is going to get rid of its tax. And that’s good, too, because now the product, like Harley-Davidson–I was talking to them–the product will now flow into other countries where right now they can’t do it.”
The BAT is attracting growing opposition from the US business community and among congressional Republicans. Retailers fear the tax would make their products more expensive. Manufacturers fret over increased costs for their inputs. At least two Republican Senators, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine, have expressed skepticism over the proposal.