2020·4 min read


Shipping containers
Nov 7, 2018

The Story

In recent years, the US has been making, breaking, and negotiating some trade deals.

What’s the issue?

How the US should trade with other countries and under what conditions. President Obama was all about

free trade

– or making it easier to trade with other countries by removing restrictions (think: import taxes, quotas). President Trump is all about “

fair trade

.” He thinks Obama-era deals hurt US workers, since they make it cheaper to buy products overseas. He’s switched a few things up.

Catch me up on that.

Trump’s got a new approach on a couple of major trade situations. Like…

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)...

The free-trade deal between the US and 11 other Pacific countries that produce almost half of the world's goods. Days after Trump’s inauguration, he pulled the US from the deal.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)...

The US’s longstanding free-trade deal with Canada and Mexico. Like with the TPP, Trump thinks this deal hurt US manufacturers by making it cheaper to buy goods from – and move jobs – overseas. He worked to negotiate a new version that he hopes will better protect US jobs. In late September, the three countries agreed on NAFTA 2.0 – and are getting ready to sign on the dotted line. Meet...

US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)...

If Congress approves, it goes into effect in 2020. It gives US dairy farmers and wine producers more access to Canadian markets. Cheers. It also works to strengthen intellectual property rights. But US car prices are expected to rise, as companies are pushed to hire and produce more materials locally.

Steel and aluminum tariffs...

Earlier this year, Trump hit countries with

steel and aluminum tariffs







, and

the EU

have hit back at the US with tariffs of their own. The EU and Trump are

trying to work it out

. But things with China have escalated. Speaking of...


Since the US announced the steel and aluminum tariffs, the two have been hitting each other with tariffs on tens of billions of dollars in products. These tariffs are designed to get China to stop doing things like steal US intellectual property. But China’s not ready to budge – and both sides are prepping for more.

What does the left say?

A lot of us are with Trump in wanting to

protect US workers

from foreign competition. Some of us are happy about

parts of his new USMCA deal

designed to do just that. But some of us worry these ongoing steel and aluminum tariffs will

hurt US businesses

that rely on steel and aluminum parts (eg cars) by making it more expensive to produce goods. These tariffs are setting off retaliatory tariffs from other countries, which will only hurt US consumers and other businesses – that are getting hit by retaliatory tariffs from other countries.

What does the right say?

Hoooold on a minute. Many of us are

pro-free trade

– and the benefits of trade go both ways. Things like tariffs threaten US jobs and

hurt the US economy

by making it hard to export our homemade goods to other countries – and to buy stuff we want from abroad. And the retaliatory tariffs we’re now seeing are

hurting US farmers

in red states. Not okay.

What can my elected reps do?

This one’s on Congress.

House and Senate reps

sign off on trade deals. So things like Trump’s new USMCA deal will have to get

Congress’s seal of approval


Congress is also supposed to approve US tariffs. But Trump cited

national security concerns

as his reasons for the steel and aluminum ones, so he didn’t need lawmakers' OK. He did get pushback from Republican senators, though. Many claim the tariffs are actually posing the

national security risk

. Plot twist


Trade affects US jobs, the economy, relations with other countries, and even national security. Vote wisely.

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