The problem with America's biggest exports

American trade policy now revolves around intellectual property

American steel workers.
(Image credit: Ted Russell / Alamy Stock Photo)

President Trump's announcement that he would levy tariffs on steel and aluminum is perhaps the least-surprising policy decision to come out of this administration. Trump, after all, complained about "bad trade deals" on the campaign trail almost as much as he did about immigration, and has been obsessed with the subject for far longer. And he packed his economic team specifically with steel industry veterans long focused on the threat of the dominant Chinese steel producers.

Almost as predictable as Trump's decision was the sustained chorus of condemnation, from industry groups that would suffer from the effects of the tariffs to political and ideological opponents, which combined criticisms of the predictably botched structure of the proposed tariffs with blanket declarations of the folly of protectionism and industrial policy. Those who admitted the long history of presidents announcing temporary tariffs of various kinds often averred that the reasons were political rather than economic — an attempt to buy votes from particular constituencies while the nation as a whole paid the price.

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Noah Millman

Noah Millman is a screenwriter and filmmaker, a political columnist and a critic. From 2012 through 2017 he was a senior editor and featured blogger at The American Conservative. His work has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Politico, USA Today, The New Republic, The Weekly Standard, Foreign Policy, Modern Age, First Things, and the Jewish Review of Books, among other publications. Noah lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.