I believe you can put much of the blame on our trade situation to the influence of money/lobbying. And with the Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to give unlimited amounts of money to PACs and the like it has exasperated the situation.
Let me give a couple of examples of bad trade policies influenced by big money.
In the mid-1990s, China was having a problem controlling its missiles and sought technology from Loral Corp. The Defense and State Departments were against the deal, while Pres. Clinton and the Commerce Dept. (Ron Brown) were pushing it. The latter won out and it was reported that it saved China 10 years in developing its missile/weapons systems. Subsequently Clinton received a $1 million donation for his re-election bid from a Chinese national (which was illegal). Clinton was also behind China getting into the World Trade Organization, allowing it access to almost all markets.
The other example was Wal-Mart (so-called “Buy America” company) that actively lobbied its suppliers in the 1990s to move their manufacturing operations to China so it could get the price point it wanted to make bigger profits. This was part of the hollowing out of our country’s manufacturing base faster than it might have happened. Not so coincidentally Wal-Mart is based in Clinton’s home state of Arkansas.
These decisions led me to not vote for a major party for president for the first time in my life.
So what do we do now? The world has changed dramatically and the U.S. has a much smaller manufacturing base and is dependent on a service-based economy.
I don’t agree with Trump’s policy of negotiating single-country trade deals, which will make it more complicated for our industries to adapt. On the other hand, we have to be able to enforce trade deals that put us on equal footing with other countries. Most countries charge an import tariff so we either have to match that or come up with a way to equal out those offsets. And we have to protect our intellectual property (IP) from countries like China. Trump will be imposing strong tariffs on China for IP theft. That may be a strategy to get them to listen, but we also have to have ways to secure our technology going forward.