Laborers fill orders of machine grade steel to be shipped throughout the Pacific Northwest Natalie Behring/Getty Images
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Trump and the All-American Trade Debate

Donald Trump’s recently announced tariffs on imported steel and aluminum have raised fears that his administration will roll back the rules-based free-trade system that has facilitated global commerce since World War II. But a closer examination of the history of US trade policy shows that Trump’s protectionist gambits are neither new, nor likely to have a lasting effect.

WASHINGTON, DC – For eight decades, beginning in the 1930s, the president of the United States, whoever he was, served as a vigorous promoter of free trade. During that period, American presidential leadership played a crucial role in lowering barriers to international trade, establishing global rules and organizations for cross-border commerce – particularly between countries in a growing US-sponsored trading order – and steadily expanding the volume and value of traded goods and services.