Railing against trade deficits that cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars and innumerable jobs, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump amped up his rhetoric on trade as he spoke to supporters.
“We’re losing $500 billion to China,” Trump said, according to Fortune. “Who the hell cares about a trade war?”
Trump has been criticized by free trade advocates on the right, but new figures released earlier in May were ill-timed for the businessman's critics: The trade deficit with China surged to $51.4 billion in March, an increase of $15 billion over the previous month. That represents the highest-ever monthly deficit with China, according to Fortune.
While running a populist campaign, Trump has mentioned the trade deficit loudly and often, looking to convince U.S. blue-collar workers that the current trade agreements and economic policy are bad for Americans.
The businessman has said he'll do away with existing trade agreements, steer America away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement -- of which President Barack Obama has been an advocate -- and impose trade tariffs on countries like China and Mexico. Critics of Trump's proposals say imposing tariffs on China and Mexico would backfire, with the ripple effect dragging the U.S. into another economic recession.
“We’re like a big, big sloppy bully who gets punched in the face and gets knocked down,” Trump said. “My trade deal is very simple, I am going to make great deals for our country,"
In interviews, Trump has said any new trade deals should take into account the economic policies of U.S. trade partners, pointing to currency manipulation on the part of countries like China, which costs the U.S. billions.
In a study released in February, Economic Policy Institute economist Robert E. Scott estimated that hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs have been lost to countries like Mexico and China because of currency manipulation. Currency manipulation is the practice of averting self-correcting markets, keeping the prices of imported goods artificially inflated and the value of exports artificially lower. It allows countries to keep a competitive edge and continue exporting cheap goods, says Campaign for America's Future.
The Obama administration has ignored criticism about the impact of currency manipulation, despite mounting opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
Critics of Trump's economic proposals, the businessman said, are "very conservative ideologues," says Fortune.
"I'm a free trader," Trump said, "but I'm only a free trader if we make good deals."