'Trumponomics,' in Trump's own words, comes down to one thing -- trade

Donald TrumpPool/Getty ImagesDonald Trump.

President Donald Trump was asked to explain the theory behind “Trumponomics,” or his economic strategy, during a recent interview with The Economist.

His answer makes it clear that it comes down to one thing — trade.

In the first two paragraphs of his answer on “Trumponomics,” Trump used a form of the word “trade” 13 times. In fact, it was the only subject he discussed.

“So that’s the story,” Trump said. “It very much has to do with trade.”

Here’s the beginning of Trump’s answer to The Economist.

The Economist: What is Trumponomics and how does it differ from standard Republican economics?

Trump: Well it’s an interesting question. I don’t think it’s ever been asked quite that way. But it really has to do with self-respect as a nation. It has to do with trade deals that have to be fair, and somewhat reciprocal, if not fully reciprocal. And I think that’s a word that you’re going to see a lot of, because we need reciprocality in terms of our trade deals. We have nations where…they will get as much as 100% of a tax or a tariff for a certain product and for the same product we get nothing, OK? It’s very unfair. And the very interesting thing about that is that, if I said I’m going to put a tax on of 10%, the free-traders, somewhat foolishly, they will say ‘Oh, he’s not a free-trader,’ which I am, I’m absolutely a free-trader. I’m for open trade, free trade, but I also want smart trade and fair trade. But they will say, ‘He’s not a free-trader,’ at 10%. But if I say we’re putting a reciprocal tax on, it may be 62% or it may be 47%, I mean massive numbers, and nobody can complain about it. It’s really sort of an amazing thing.

So that’s the story. It very much has to do with trade. We have so many bad trade deals. To a point where I’m not sure that we have any good trade deals. I don’t know who the people are that would put us into a NAFTA, which was so one-sided. Both from the Canada standpoint and from the Mexico standpoint. So one-sided. Wilbur [Ross, the secretary of commerce] will tell you that, you know, like, at the court in Canada, we always lose. Well, the judges are three Canadians and two Americans. We always lose. But we’re not going to lose any more. And so it’s very, very unfair.

Trump proceeded to discuss his plans for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (or NAFTA), which he was going to pull out of recently until Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto convinced him otherwise. Trump slammed the “fast-track” trade provisions in Congress that require a 90-day advance notice to Congress of any negotiations.

“We have a problem because we have a ridiculous provision in NAFTA that we have, you know, to go on the fast track,” he said. “Fast track is the slowest track I’ve ever seen. To go on the fast track you have to give notice. Well we gave notice 70 days ago. It’s called a cooling-off period, OK? But that’s not the way life works because when they call and they want to make a deal, I don’t want to have to wait a hundred days.”

“So I put the papers in almost 70 days ago, to get the approval for fast track in Congress,” he continued. “And they still haven’t given me approval. And the reason they haven’t is because our trade negotiator, who, as you know, the provision goes with your negotiator. It doesn’t go from the time you put it in, it goes with your negotiator. So he just got approved. He’ll be in sometime, I guess next week?”

Trump was pointing to his nominee for US trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, who was approved in a Senate committee but is still awaiting a confirmation vote before the full Senate. On Wednesday, Republican Sens. Ben Sasse and John McCain announced they would not support Lighthizer, although at least a few Democrats are expected to support Trump’s pick.

The president skimped on details about what he actually wants to see changed in the deal, but added that whatever changes are made must result in the trade deficits with Canada and Mexico shrinking. He did not, however, say it was a necessity for those deficits to hit $US0.

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