Global Views
   Middle East & Africa
 Embassy News
 Arts & Living
 Travel & Hotel
 Medical Tourism New
 Letters to Editor
 Photo Gallery
 News Media Link
 TV Schedule Link
 News English
 Hospitals & Clinics
 Flea Market
 Moving & Packaging
 Religious Service
 Korean Classes
 Korean Weather
 Real Estate
 Home Stay
 Room Mate
 English Teaching
 Job Offered/Wanted
 Hotel Lounge
 Foreign Exchanges
 Korean Stock
 Business Center
 PR & Ads
 Arts & Performances
 Restaurants & Bars
 Tour & Travel
 Shopping Guide
 Foreign Missions
 Community Groups
 Foreign Workers
 Useful Services
 ST Banner Exchange
CSIS Commentary
Will the Election Results Turn the Tide on Trade?
Special Contribution
By William Alan Reinsch & Jack Caporal
US Capitol Hill: the venue of US Mid-term election on Nov. 6, 2018

On Nov. 6, 2018, American voters flipped the House of Representatives away from Republican control into the hands of Democratic members. Republicans managed to strengthen their grip on the Senate. These developments will have implications for the administration’s trade policy agenda, although some questions remain given the evolving and unconventional political dynamics surrounding the issue.

Q1: Did trade policy factor into voters’ decisions at the ballot box?

A1: While President Trump pushed his tough trade vision when running in 2016, the issue cropped up less and less in his stump speeches as the 2018 midterm election drew to a close. With the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) behind him and markets beginning to react poorly to trade tensions with China, the president shifted his focus on the campaign trail to immigration and the southern border. But that shift in rhetoric is not to say that the president’s trade policy did not play a role in certain races.

Trade policy may have played a role in states and districts that have been hit particularly hard by the administration’s tariffs and subsequent retaliation. For instance, farmers in the Midwest have felt a pinch from retaliatory tariffs on agricultural products imposed by Canada, Mexico, China, and others in response to the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum, as well as its Section 301 tariffs on China. At this point, however, it does not appear that the president’s trade policy drove voters’ intentions nationally, or even in some states and districts where trade and tariffs have had a relatively large impact.

In the agriculture-heavy state of North Dakota, the incumbent Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp was defeated by Republican challenger Kevin Cramer, despite Heitkamp being much more critical of the president’s trade policy than Cramer. In Minnesota House District 8, which includes the Iron Range and has been buoyed by the president’s metal tariffs, Republican challenger Pete Stauber defeated Democrat Joe Radinovich. Stauber had backed President Trump’s tariffs. A similar story played out for Republican incumbent Mike Bost in Illinois District 12. Representative Bost, the co-chair of the Congressional Steel Caucus and a supporter of the steel tariffs, hails from a district that experienced layoffs due to the idling of a U.S. Steel plant in 2015. Since the steel tariffs were imposed, U.S. Steel hasrestarted two blast furnaces in Granite City in Bost’s district, bringing 800 jobs back. The Democratic incumbent in Ohio, Senator Sherrod Brown, a consistent fan of the president’s tariffs and take on China, easily dispatched his opponent even though the state has been tilting to the right in recent years.

Still, it’s important to remember that trade policy consistently ranks as a low-intensityissue for voters. Voters have listed terrorism, the economy in general, health care costs, the environment, the budget deficit, and immigration as higher priorities than trade for the past ten years.

Q2: Where do the Democrats elected to the House that flipped seats from Republicans stand on trade?

A2: A quick review of public statements by 30 newly elected Democrats shows 15 taking a pro-trade stand, 4 indicating skepticism about trade and 11 whose positions could not easily be determined at this early stage.

Q3: What does a Democratic House and a Republican Senate mean for the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement’s (USMCA) fate?

A3: While negotiations for the NAFTA replacement, the USMCA, have concluded, Congress must pass a bill to implement the agreement before it comes into force. That gives Democrats the keys to one of President Trump’s signature achievements and therefore a potentially large source of leverage over the administration. So far, many Democrats and Republicans have balked at announcing support or opposition to USMCA, and there are positives and negatives for each party in the agreement.

Given their new majority in the House, Democrats are unlikely to agree to pass a USMCA implementing bill without extracting some concessions from the administration. While Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) should provide the administration some predictabilityduring USMCA’s consideration in Congress, Democrats in the House could decide that the administration has not met the negotiating objectives contained in the TPA law and strip the administration’s fast-track authority, as then-speaker Nancy Pelosi did in 2008 with respect to the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

This time, however, it is more likely House Democrats will use USMCA as a bargaining chip with the administration to seek concessions on separate issues and/or to improve certain aspects of the deal before it comes into force, such as labor rules. This tactic invites some risk if the president opts to withdraw from NAFTA when he sends the USMCA implementing bill to Congress since neither party will want to be blamed for an outcome in which there is both no NAFTA and no USMCA. Some modest improvements in the labor provisions, however, would allow Democrats to say they “fixed” an inadequate agreement, which would allow them to support it.

Q4: What about the rest of the administration’s trade agenda, including upcoming negotiations with the United Kingdom, European Union, Japan, and the ongoing trade war with China?

A4: With negotiations with the United Kingdom, European Union, and Japan either not begun or just getting underway, the most House Democrats can do is conduct rigorous oversight of the administration’s efforts. This would entail summoning administration officials involved in the negotiations to Capitol Hill to testify on the administration’s objectives for the talks, how negotiations are proceeding, and other related issues. Similar oversight is likely to be conducted on the administration’s China tariffs and national security tariffs on aluminum and steel. Leading those efforts will be the new House Ways and Means Committee chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and the likely trade subcommittee chair Bill Pascrell (D-NJ).

Democrats, able to set the agenda in the House, will also use oversight hearings to criticize the administration for process fouls. Those include inadequate (in the eyes of Democrats) consultations on a number of fronts, from China tariffs to the 232 tariffs and consultations mandated by TPA on USMCA and other trade negotiations. With a majority in the House, Democrats will also cry foul over the lack of transparency from the administration on a variety of issues as well, such as the lack of information on why certain companies are granted exemptions from China and metal tariffs while others are not, lack of access to negotiating text during the USMCA talks and upcoming negotiations, and failure by the administration to lay out a clear China strategy.

If Democrats opt just to criticize the administration, however, they will be squandering the full potential of their new House majority. Democrats will need to devise a robust trade policy agenda of their own to distinguish themselves from the administration’s approach of “tariffs first, negotiations later.” One challenge the party will face in constructing a trade policy agenda is how to reconcile the pro-trade position of most Democratic voters with the anti-trade views of organized labor, which remains a significant source of organizational and financial support for Democrats. Another challenge for Democrats will be picking and choosing their battles with the president, both on trade and other issues, as the pivotal 2020 elections approach. Trade is one area where the president’s policy instincts align with the views of many Democratic members of Congress, which could lead to compromise on some issues, like the USMCA and an aggressive approach to China. Holding the majority in the House provides Democrats a valuable platform to pitch an alternative, positive, and worker-focused trade agenda to the U.S. public at a time when there are serious questions about U.S. trade strategy. Whether they will seize the opportunity remains to be seen.

William Reinsch, holds the Scholl Chair in International Business at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. and Jack Caporal is an associate fellow with the CSIS Scholl Chair in International Business.

Critical Questions is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

Related Articles
    What Are the Key Strengths of the China-Russia ...
    Economic Indicators of Chinese Military Action ...
    China Is the Wrong Industrial Policy Model for ...
    Tracking the Fourth Taiwan Strait Crisis
    Central Questions in US-China Relations amid ...
    Christopher B. Johnstone Joins CSIS as Japan ...
    China Unveils its 1st Long-Term Hydrogen Plan
    Filling In the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework
    Five Things to Watch in 2022
    Is China Building a New String of Pearls in ...
    China Ramping Up Its Electronic Warfare, ...
    A New Chapter in U.S.-China LNG Relations
    Previewing the 2021 Summit for Democracy
    China: The Growing Military Challenge: Volume ...
    The Case for US-Japan-ROK Cooperation on ...
    China's Commitment to Stop Overseas Financing ...
    China Headaches for Iran Nuclear Deal
    The Quad's Strategic Infrastructure Play
    China, Again and Again and Again
    Engaging China on Climate before COP26
    When Will the United States Have a Special ...
    Is Latin America Important to China's Foreign ...
    Chinese National Oil Companies Face the Energy ...
    Four Years On: An Update on Rohingya Crisis
    11th Annual South China Sea Conference: ...
    A Glimpse of Chinese Ballistic Missile ...
    US Defense Chief Austin Accomplishes Two ...
    China’s New National Carbon Trading Market: ...
    Progress Report on China’s Type 003 Carrier
    Geopolitical Implications of Scientific ...
    China’s Third Aircraft Carrier Takes Shape
    Strategic Competition and Foreign Perceptions ...
    Bonny Lin, Ex-RAND Scientist, to Join CSIS
    Beyond Polysilicon: The Ties between China’s ...
    Biden-Moon Summit: Rejuvenating and ...
    S. Korean President Moon Jae-In to Meet with ...
    China’s New Space Station Is a Stepping-Stone ...
    Future Scenarios for Leadership Succession in ...
    How China Affects Global Maritime Connectivity
    What Do Overseas Visits Reveal about China’s ...
    CSIS Commission on the Korean Peninsula: ...
    Reflections on the 10th Anniversary of the ...
    Understanding China’s 2021 Defense Budget
    China’s Opaque Shipyards Should Raise Red ...
    How Developed Is China’s Arms Industry?
    Myanmar’s Military Seizes Power
    A Complex Inheritance: Transitioning to a New ...
    Combatting Human Rights Abuses in Xinjiang
    How Covid-19 Affected US-China Military ...
    Previewing the G-20 and APEC Summits
    Another US-Built Facility at Ream Bites the ...
    Vietnam Currency Investigation: Strategy and ...
    CSIS Press Briefing: U.S. Policy toward Taiwan
    Mapping the Future of U.S. China Policy
    Assessing the Direction of South Korea-Japan ...
    Chinese Investment in the Maldives: Appraising ...
    Dual Circulation and China’s New Hedged ...
    Shinzo Abe’s Decision to Step Down
    A Frozen Line in the Himalayas
    Addressing Forced Labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur ...
    Decoupling Kabuki: Japan’s Effort to Reset, ...
    Remote Control: Japan's Evolving Senkakus ...
    Sil-li Ballistic Missile Support Facility
    China Won’t Be Scared into Choosing ...
    What’s on the Horizon for Covid-19
    Next Steps for the Coronavirus Response
    COVID-19 Threatens Global Food Security
    Geopolitics and the Novel Coronavirus
    Hope for the Climate
    The Novel Coronavirus Outbreak
    What's Inside the US-China Phase One Deal?
    When Iran Attacks
    Ports and Partnerships: Delhi Invests in ...
    Seeking Clues in Case of the Yuemaobinyu 42212
    Signaling Sovereignty: Chinese Patrols at ...
    Red Flags: Why Was China’s Fourth Plenum ...
    Japan and Korea: Rising Above the Fray
    Only US Can Pull Japan, Korea Back from Brink
    China Risks Flare-Up over Malaysian, ...
    Fear Won’t Stop China’s Digital Silk Road
    Japan, N. Korea: Summit, Missiles, Abductions
    “Chinese, Russian Influence in the Middle ...
    Tracking China’s 3rd Aircraft Carrier
    CSIS Scholars Discuss Trump-Abe Summit
    Still Under Pressure: Manila Vs. the Militia
    Is North Korea Preparing for a Military Parade?
    Slow and Steady: Vietnam's Spratly Upgrades
    Sanctions against North Korea: An Unintended ...
    More Is Possible Now to Address North Korea’s ...
    North Korea Reportedly Renews Commitment to ...
    Settling Kurdish Self-Determination in ...
    The Trump Administration’s Trade Objectives ...
    How Is China Securing Its LNG Needs?
    Responding to the Xinjiang Surveillance State ...
    Rethinking U.S. Strategy in the Pacific Islands
    China, US Choose Between 4 “Cs” Conflict, ...
    Shinzo Abe Rolls On
    Necessary Counterterrorism Conversations
    Trade and Wages
    North Korea Begins Dismantling Key Facilities ...
    Negotiating the Right Agreement: Looking ...
    The Korean Civil-Military Balance
    Will Trump-Kim Summit Be Cancelled?
    The Chinese Are Coming! The Chinese Are Coming!
    How Much Have the Chinese Actually Taken?
    The Other Side of N. Korean Threat: Looking ...
    The Other Side of the North Korean, Iranian, ...
    CSIS & Syracuse's Maxwell School Offer ...
    Dr. Sue Mi Terry Joins CSIS as Senior Fellow ...
    EU to Social Media: Regulate or Be Regulated
    Japan’s Lower House Election: Abe Prevails ...
    China and Technology: Tortoise and Hare Again
    "Countering Coercion in Maritime Asia"






The Seoul Times, Shinheung-ro 36ga-gil 24-4, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea 04337 (ZC)
Office: 82-10-6606-6188 Publisher & Editor: Joseph Joh
Copyrights 2000 The Seoul Times Company  ST Banner Exchange