President Donald Trump has put American prosperity and trade policy at the heart of his new national security strategy.
The new strategy, released Monday, focuses on confronting the mercantalist unfair trade practices that give rise to enormous trade deficits and facilitate the theft of American technology. It describes China as a “revisionist power” seeking to undermine U.S. security and prosperity.
“Economic security is national security,” Trump said in a speech Monday. “Any nation that trades away its prosperity for security will end up losing both.”
The strategy does not promote the straw man of “protectionism.” Instead, it insists that the key to American economic success is “open and equitable markets.”
“We welcome all economic relationships rooted in fairness, reciprocity, and faithful adherence to the rules,” the strategy document says. “But the United States will no longer turn a blind eye to violations, cheating, or economic aggression.”
The strategy gives a short history lesson on how the U.S. fell into complacency on trade. As the U.S. undertook to expand a liberal trading system around the globe, it hoped that countries–including those that did not share our values–would liberalize their own economic systems and political practices. Those hopes, however, went unmet, according to the strategy.
“Experience shows that those countries distorted and undermined key economic institutions without undertaking significant reform of their economies or politics. They espouse free trade rhetoric and exploit its benefits, but only adhere selectively to the rules and agreements,” the strategy document says.
Much of this is a pointed critique of China, the world’s leading practitioner of the trade-distorting mercantilist policies addressed in the National Security Strategy. Putting U.S. complaints about China’s trade policies into the framework of national security is a significant escalation of the conflict, signaling that the Trump administration is not backing down from the strong anti-China rhetoric heard from Trump when he was running for president last year.
The strategy also frames tax cuts, infrastructure investment and regulatory retrenchment in terms of national security.
“We will rejuvenate the American economy for the benefit of American workers and companies, which is necessary to restore our national power,” the administration said in a summary of the strategy.