September 28, 2016 4:26PM

Why Clinton Can’t Answer Trump on Trade

During the first half‐​hour of Monday’s presidential debate the candidates talked about the role of foreign trade in America’s economy. Some observers have said that Donald Trump “won” this portion of the debate, because even though everything he said was wrong, he sounded very confident and Hillary Clinton didn’t have good responses. 

Trump took control of the narrative from the beginning when he came out swinging against China and Mexico, who he says are stealing our jobs. He effectively blamed Clinton for the destruction of American manufacturing by tying her to NAFTA.

Clinton could have responded with any number of rebuttals. For example, U.S. manufacturing has not been destroyed; NAFTA has been good for our economy; globalization has been a major driver of America’s economic success; gauging American economic health by the size of our trade deficit is foolish; and promising growth through protectionism is a con job.

But Clinton can’t make any of those rebuttals, because her trade policy proposals are nearly identical to Trump’s and rely on the same myths and fallacies. Clinton has criticized trade and Chinese cheating for harming U.S. manufacturing. She’s promised to violate WTO rules to impose high tariffs on Chinese goods. And she has promised many times to renegotiate NAFTA.

American public discourse, and possibly the quality of life of millions of people, would have been better served if someone on that stage had been willing to take on Trump’s belligerent nationalism by pointing to the incredible prosperity promoted by decades of ever‐​expanding global economic liberalization.