Trump knows that most of our trading partners don’t really want free trade; they want managed trade, where they can get access to U.S. markets while protecting certain industries from U.S. competition. Trump’s strategy to get them to drop these protectionist barriers is to impose crushing tariffs. At a rally earlier this week, Trump explained his strategy for getting to zero tariffs. “You know, other countries have tariffs on us. So, when I say, ‘Well, I’m going to put tariffs on them,’ they all start screaming, ‘He’s using tariffs,’ ” Trump said. “I said [to the European Union], ‘You have to change.’ They didn’t want to change. I said, ‘Okay. Good. We’re going to tariff your cars.’ . . . They said, ‘When can we show up? When can we be there?’ [Laughter.] ‘Would tomorrow be okay?’ Oh, folks, stick with us. Stick with us.”
Now Trump’s hard-line trade strategy is being vindicated. Not only is the E.U. negotiating zero tariffs, but also it agreed to immediately buy more American soybeans — which helps Trump in his trade battle with China. After Trump imposed tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods, China responded with retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products, including soybeans. Beijing knows that China is the single largest importer of U.S. soybeans, and that about 96 percent of U.S. soybeans are grown in 18 states — all but two of which voted for Trump in 2016. Their tariffs left soybean farmers none too happy with Trump and gave a political boost to vulnerable Senate Democrats in soy-producing farm states such as Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.).