Ken Blackwell: Democrats have no answer to Trump trade deals

With the Democratic primary campaign underway, presidential hopefuls on the left are seeking to contrast themselves with Donald Trump in a variety of ways. They want to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund free college, free health care, and the Green New Deal. They want to end private health insurance. They want to pack the Supreme Court. They want to let death-row inmates vote. They want open borders.

Meanwhile, they are all but ignoring the president’s America First policy, especially his efforts to reverse the unfair treatment of American companies and industries. This has been an unsung victory for the Trump administration, and Democrats don’t have an answer for it.

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Chief among the president’s successes is the renegotiation of NAFTA – which was clearly in need of major modernization and revision.  In its place, President Trump negotiated and implemented the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a fairer trade deal that boosts America’s ability to create new jobs. Trump’s ability to get Mexico and Canada to the table in the first place should be commended. The USMCA is a great trade deal, and Congress should work towards approving it.
 
In addition to the new NAFTA, President Trump has renegotiated our trade agreement with South Korea, with an eye towards greater protection for American companies.  While previous administrations have talked tough on China, the Trump administration has taken aggressive action to stop the unfair treatment of American industries and finally level the playing field. As a result of all these actions, the U.S. trade deficit fell to an eight-month low in February.

Standing up for American companies and workers and ensuring our partners don’t take advantage of us will be a winning message heading into the 2020 elections.

Across the board, the administration has pursued a strong America First policy to ensure that other nations live up to their end of our trade deals.  American companies and industries will compete on a level playing field once and for all.
 
Another critical part of the economy where the President has stood up for the enforcement of existing agreements is the airline industry.  For years, U.S. airlines, workers, elected officials complained that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were violating the open skies agreements between our nations by illegally subsidizing their airlines and putting our airlines at a disadvantage.
 
While the Obama administration did nothing for years, the Trump administration stood up for our workers and brought both nations to the table and negotiated strong agreements with both to ensure their compliance with the open skies agreements.

Unfortunately, it appears that Qatar has now begun to test the limits of those agreements – and likely the patience of the administration.  Qatar Airways has bought a commanding stake in Air Italy, previously a small regional carrier with financial woes, and Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker now describes the airline as if it is his own. Additionally, Air Italy and Qatar Airways share many of the same executives, and they are operating almost as one company. Qatar Airways has even provided aircraft from their own fleet for Air Italy to use in service between Milan and New York, an already crowded route. Five other airlines have daily flights along the same path that Air Italy is encroaching in with the help of subsidized Qatar Airways.
 
This represents a violation of the spirit of the hard-fought negotiations between Qatar and the Trump administration and has brought a great deal of criticism.  Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, led a group of 11 senators who wrote to the administration asking them to review Qatar’s compliance with the previous deal.  Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a key Trump ally wrote to the president urging him to take the issue seriously.
 
Not surprisingly, the administration is keeping a close eye on this issue and if the president’s track record is any indication, their concerns will be addressed.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently said the administration is “looking very closely” at Qatar’s compliance.
 
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President Trump understands that for too long, the United States has been trampled on in trade deals, treaties and alliances and is reworking deals to protect American interests.   Not only is it critical that he continue to renegotiate trade deals, but also to hold our trading partners’ feet to the fire in the commitments they make and ensure they don’t use loopholes to get around them.
 
Standing up for American companies and workers and ensuring our partners don’t take advantage of us will be a winning message heading into the 2020 elections.