Commentary: Tariff Hawks Got It All Wrong When They Predicted ‘Another Great Depression’ from Trump’s America-First Trade Policies

Donald Trump

by Robert Romano   In 2016, when President Donald Trump ran on his America first trade agenda, much of the conventional wisdom was that, if implemented, his tariffs would wreck the U.S. economy. It would have the same impact as the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Act, and so the prediction goes, lead to another Great Depression. “Trump trade plans could cause global recession: Experts,” read one confident headline on CNBC in May 2016. “If you take (Trump’s) position as real, that we would do this, then it would take the world down the road that we saw in the 1930s that we saw with the Smoot–Hawley Tariff,” Caroline Freund of the Peterson Institute for International Economics said. “The world would definitely fall into a recession.” The Washington Post’s Robert Samuelson wrote in June 2018, “The ghost of Smoot-Hawley seems to haunt Trump,” after Trump levied tariffs on steel and aluminum. Samuelson suggested, “What’s eerie is that Trump’s embrace of protectionism is now assuming the same role as Smoot-Hawley in the 1930s. By slowing economic growth, it darkens the outlook and reduces the ability of debtors to repay their lenders. So much for the lessons of history.” Other predictions have suggested, besides slowing economic growth or perhaps…

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