President Donald Trump referenced former President Abraham Lincoln to back his views on free trade during his first joint address to Congress Tuesday. The comments were made just over a month after Trump announced his plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico, and he has long voiced his disapproval for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
“I believe strongly in free trade but it also has to be fair trade. The first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the ‘abandonment of the protective policy by the American government [will] produce want and ruin among our people,’” Trump, who used this quote last June, said during the address.
“Lincoln was right — and it is time we heeded his words. I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore,” he added.
Lincoln spoke about the trade polices following his election to Congress in 1846. However, experts have been apprehensive about these ideas because international trade has undergone significant changes since the former president’s voiced his views a century and a half ago.
Lincoln was involved with Whig party, which fell apart mostly due to sectional rivalries. And during the Civil War, he was a National Union presidential nominee. However, he became the first president of the country from the Republican Party in 1861.
Even in the 19th century, protectionism did not result in equal benefits and led to the rise of manufacturing centers like the urban areas of the Northeast America — at the expense of agricultural regions like the South, the Atlantic noted. This led the Republicans to support trade tariffs, while Democrats expressed doubts over the trade policy.
Trump has maintained his opposition to NAFTA, calling it the “worst trade deal in history” and repeatedly blamed it for the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. The trade agreement between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. was signed into law in 1994 under the then President Bill Clinton. However, the framework was outlined under President Ronald Reagan in 1987.
Last month, he withdrew the U.S. from the TPP deal — signed between 12 countries that border the Pacific Ocean after seven years of negotiation. The aim of the agreement was to strengthen economic relations between these countries.
"Great thing for the American worker, what we just did," Trump said after signing an executive order on withdrawal from TPP.
Previously, Trump said: "The Trans-Pacific Partnership is another disaster done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country, just a continuing rape of our country."
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