Trump announces the United States Mexico Canada Agreement at the White House, October 2018.
Kevin Lamarque / REUTERS

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that the United States was being taken advantage of by its trading partners. Bad trade deals, he said, were to blame for lost jobs and deepening trade deficits. Yet he never laid out in detail what he intended to do about it—and his trade policy as president has been nothing if not haphazard. The midterm elections provide a good moment to take stock of Trump’s trade agenda: what has he done so far and what might he do next?

COSMETIC CHANGES

In one of his first official acts, Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). He took this precipitous step without even considering renegotiating or rebranding the pact. Other countries have continued to implement the agreement, leaving the United States outside the major trade deal in the Pacific at a time when other governments are questioning Washington’s commitment

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  • DOUGLAS A. IRWIN is Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College and the author of Clashing Over Commerce: A History of U.S. Trade Policy.
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