In a speech that could have come from a 20th century dictator Donald Trump last night turned the Republican Party firmly away from its historic commitment to the free market and embraced nationalistic protectionist policies not seen in the US in living memory.
The Republican nominee for president pledged to radically change or scrap NAFTA, the free trade agreement. He pledged to bring back long lost manufacturing jobs despite the changes in the US economy that cannot be reversed. Trump promised he would prevent companies from leaving the US and would punish them if they did.
This is a major departure from the GOP’s traditional approach to economic policy. Republicans have typically embraced free trade and competition as the best ways to create economic growth and have fought hard against restrictions on private industry. While Trump said he wants to cut regulation, his proposals to restrict international trade are a serious departure for the GOP.
The idea that shareholders of major American corporations will accept Trump’s legal restrictions on their freedom of movement and investment is laughable. Moreover, Trump’s anti-NAFTA agenda and apparent plan to start a trade war with China could plunge the country and the world into recession. Trump’s assertion that he will ‘make the best deals’ is as credible as his claim Mexico will cough up for his wall.
Trump’s populist and fact-free economic rhetoric proves the GOP has moved decisively towards insular, autocratic politics. The party that championed free markets and the wisdom of big business is now selling a 19th century protectionist platform, where US and foreign capitalists are the enemy.