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Would Trump's trade threats work? Many experts are skeptical

Published:Monday | March 14, 2016 | 12:00 AM


Donald Trump has promised to shred America's trade deals and impose fines on imports from Mexico and China. He's gone so far as to swear off Oreos to protest Nabisco's transfer of cookie production from Chicago to Mexico.

By attacking trade agreements, the Republican presidential front-runner is channelling the belief, common among many of this year's angry voters, that foreign competition is robbing American jobs and shrinking wages.

"We're being killed on trade, absolutely destroyed," Trump says.

His assault on trade deals, which, in some ways, echoes arguments of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, seems to be winning politics. But Trump's analysis of how trade hurts American workers is flawed, and as president, he would struggle to deliver on his promises.


The United States does have an unbalanced trade relationship with other nations. Last year, it imported $2.76 trillion in goods and services and exported just US$2.22 trillion. That US$540 billion gap, the trade deficit, was the seventh-biggest on record. Not since 1975 has the United States run a trade surplus.

A trade deficit slows economic growth and can cost jobs. Last year, the US trade gap shrank growth by 0.6 percentage point to a modest 2.4 per cent.