Trade debate compares international policies
Photo Courtesy of Genesis Ibarra / Hofstra Chronicle
In an effort to educate students on important global issues in the weeks before Election Day, the Maurice A. Deane School of Law hosted a United States Trade Policy debate between Raj Bhala, professor of law at the University of Kansas, and Michael Stumo, chief executive officer for the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA), on Thursday, Oct. 4, in the School of Law’s Siben Moot Courtroom. President Donald Trump has altered United States trade policy by imposing substantial tariffs and changing existing international trade organizations during his two years in office, raising the question and prompting the title of Thursday’s program, “Are Trade Wars ‘Easy to Win’ or Even Worth Having?”
“Hillary Clinton unleashed a trade war against the American worker when she supported one terrible trade deal after another from NAFTA to China to South Korea. A Trump administration will end that war by getting a fair deal for the American people. The era of economic surrender will finally be over,” said then Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump in 2016.
Since being inaugurated, President Trump has adopted four features to his trade policy: renegotiations of current trade policies, tariffs on China, experimentation of positions on tariffs and reformation of the World Trade Organization.
“Actually, what’s happening is destroying [China],” said Sophie Jing, a graduate student from China. “The tariff and everything on us is destroying our cooperation with the American dealers; it’s not good for international business. It’s not good for globalization.”
“Trade wars are not easy to win, but sometimes they may be worth fighting for,” Bhala said. “On the one hand, the NAFTA 2.0 completion is an achievement ... You will see a provision that requires countries to implement policies to protect women and the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination in the marketplace (employment).”
“This is not a trade war that’s going to end anytime soon, because the two sides perceive each other as an existential threat,” Bhala said. “From the perspective of the Americans, we are saying rightly, I think, that our future economic national security depends on the protection of industrial policy, which has a military dimension to it and we can’t continue to see it compromised. From the Chinese perspective, their goal in their 2025 industrial policy is to get to an advanced manufacturing state by 2025. Well to get there, you gotta steal it.”
“You could tell that Professor Bhala was coming at it from a more idealistic side,” said Kayla Staley, a senior Asian studies major.
Stumo, a lawyer-turned CEO, works regularly with Trump’s administration. “China has made steel a national security issue, it’s part of one of their five-year plans. It’s amazing what they’ve done. When China decides to do something, it’s really big. It’s bigger than when Germany and Italy do it,” Stumo said.
“Trade wars are also easy to win if you are the United States because we are the biggest economy in the world still,” Stumo said. “We are the consumers, we are the buyer, within the last four years we’ve been the buyer ... and having that status gives you enormous market power which you can use to condition access to your market upon others playing by the rules. You can abuse that position or not, but that’s where the power lies.”
“Stumo was more corporate, which made the dialogue interesting,” Staley observed.
Claudia Cafarelli, professor of marketing and international business, recognized that Thursday’s debate was an example of what students are learning about in her Introduction to International Business course this semester.
“They’re learning about developing trade policies and regional economic integration,” Cafarelli said. “Bringing to Hofstra what is happening in real life is just so important.”