When Donald Trump won the US presidential election the whole world was dismayed. Few people outside of the USA expected anything good to come of it and for a year and a half one disaster followed another. Millions of US citizens were deprived of affordable healthcare, nothing was done to lessen the widespread slaughter caused by lax gun control, a ban was imposed on immigrants from selected Moslem countries, the USA was withdrawn from the Paris Agreement on climate change to give free-rein to the polluting oil and coal industries, and America’s NATO allies were subjected to severe criticism while President Putin of Russia was treated as a friend. These were all actions that many people both expected and feared. But now, in introducing tariffs on imported goods Mr Trump has taken a small step towards a better world.
With the great increase in international travel and communication, and especially since the arrival of the Internet, there are engineers in every land with advanced design and manufacturing skills. So we should be moving towards a situation in which everything a country needs is made in that country by the people of that country. By this means the need for international trade is minimised, restricted to essential raw materials and food items not available in the destination country. Vast reductions could be made in fossil fuel consumption, lessening sea and air pollution and slowing global warming.
Big business has for several decades been hopping from country to country in search of cheap labour while at the same time, seeking to sell its products in every land. As a result, wage rates have been rising in poor countries and held more or less stagnant in the advanced countries from which the industries have fled. As the gap closes, the advantages of chasing the cheapest labour become less. At the same time, to sell more products and services requires customers to have incomes at a level that makes them affordable. As Henry Ford is reported to have said: if you don’t pay your workers well who is going to buy your cars? This is how the USA grew rich in the first place with American companies selling to American people.
Now every country can begin to become like the old USA: providing a good life for its people with a vibrant internal market and minimal external trade. Putting tariffs on imports to protect American jobs and persuade Americans to buy more home-produced goods is a step towards this Utopia which other countries are quick to follow. Every cloud has a silver lining and Trump’s promised trade war could herald a better peace for all.
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by John Powell