Jeremiah, as you know, takes a nuanced view of protectionism. We favor free trade, but we recognize the role of negotiation. Since our new president has promised to get tough on China, here is a suggestion: use trade barriers to promote environmental and worker protection standards around the world.
For example, if a Chinese (or any) exporter enjoys a labor cost advantage because it exposes its workers to hazardous conditions, slap punitive tariffs on them until they reform. Good luck challenging that at the WTO. If they are polluting Shenzhen, we don’t need to buy their products.
American manufacturers complain that our trading partners can offer cheap goods because they abuse their workers, and it’s true. Just look factory fires in Bangladesh. These people labor like slaves in conditions we outlawed a hundred years ago. Labor advocates worry about a race to the bottom. We can halt this race using … protectionism!
Now, here is a trade policy that should draw bipartisan support. We can protect our manufacturers by holding foreign companies to American standards. This will create jobs in America, and at the same time make life better for exploited workers around the world.