An AIER article says

Today Congress is statutorily impeded from stopping a continued march toward autarky, lest there appears some bipartisan legislation structured to take it back. The problem is that the Republican president has received almost no pushback from the Democrats against his trade policies; indeed, the leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, Elizabeth Warren, holds to a doctrine of “economic patriotism” that is not different in substance from Trump’s own.

This is probably too much of a "soft question" to ask on Skeptics, but to what extent do Warren's and Trump's economic protectionism look alike, in terms of actual proposals? (The AIER article doesn't get into any further details on this. Are there any more substantive comparisons published?)

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    I'd think you'd be hard-pressed to define any kind of consistent guiding principle in Trump's economic "policies." His personality is generally "shoot first, then figure out what you say you were aiming at," overall, so that's not surprising. AIER's overriding policy belief is that government regulation/intervention/control is bad, so even if their policies see large differences in goals, implementation and outcomes, that group is like to say "government interference is government interference." Good question, to delve into how incisive or obtuse that stance is in this situation. Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 15:31
  • I don't know how this question hasn't been closed for being far too vague
    – Aporter
    Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 2:46
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    This an excellent question. The one area where Trump clearly differs from most conservatives is his trade policy.
    – Savage47
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 1:11
  • @PoloHoleSet- Right or wrong Trump has pretty clear ideas about the economy unlike the previous president. Trump is focused on creating jobs and limiting outside competition. I don't necessarily agree with that but it is better than Obama's stabs in the dark and absolutely pathetic 1.9% growth.
    – Savage47
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 1:17

3 Answers 3


Vox published an explainer on Warren's trade policy when she released her plans:

President Trump’s pitch to white working-class voters has involved plenty of culture war politics, but also a striking break with the free trade policies adhered to by most Republicans over the past generation. [...]

Warren’s plan is a rejection of that legacy, but also a counterpoint to Trump, who sees trade negotiations primarily through the lens of helping American exporters. For Warren, the key issue isn’t American interests versus those of foreigners, but wages and environmental protections versus the shared interests of multinational companies in sloughing off regulation.


Economic policy is a huge area. I don't know if you can get a succinct answer on the whole lot.

This Marketwatch article for example, implies that there are significant differences, but doesn't provide any solid details on those differences.

A potential 2020 election showdown between President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren would undoubtedly be touted as a clash of ideological extremes, but when it comes to economic policy, there is one area where there’s little daylight between the candidates.

This area where their policies are similar is apparently the belief that the US Dollar is too strong.

But both Trump and Warren contend an overly strong dollar hurts U.S. competitiveness.

The Washington Post contrasts the approach Trump and Warren take to international Trade Deals. In broad terms both are sceptical of traditional (republican style) free trade deals that focus on removing trade barriers.

There used to be a standard way in which political debates about trade played out. Republican candidates listened to business interests and were broadly supportive of free trade. Democrats, in contrast, often sounded skeptical about free-trade arguments to attract voters but generally ended up supporting trade agreements after concessions.

The Post characterises the differences in approach as Trump being supportive of tariffs to protect industry and Warren supportive of Labour and Environmental protections, for much the same end. Protection of jobs within the US, by lowering competitive advantages of cheap labour markets.


Appeal to voters who have been hurt by globalization by criticizing free-trade agreements and supporting trade barriers. But he appears more willing than most Democrats to actually impose tariffs and other trade barriers.


...calling for stronger protections for labor and the environment in U.S. trade agreements with other countries. Our research suggests this approach is popular with the U.S. public. Americans like free-trade deals, but they want the deals to come with protections.


She posted a long policy statement/vision on Medium

Two things that stand out [to me], which haven't been emphasized in the other answers:

unlike Trump, while I think tariffs are an important tool, they are not by themselves a long-term solution to our failed trade agenda and must be part of a broader strategy that this Administration clearly lacks. [...]

If we raise the world’s standards to our level and American workers have the chance to compete fairly, they will thrive — and millions of people around the world will be better off too. [...]

Under WTO rules, a country designated as a “non-market economy” can face more serious trade penalties. I will push for a new “non-sustainable economy” designation that would allow us to impose tougher penalties on countries with systematically poor labor and environmental practices. We cannot allow countries that treat their workers and the environment poorly to undercut American producers that do things the right way.

She generally wants to involve environmental groups more in the US trade policy, including giving them a seat at the table in bilateral negotiations, on top of the WTO-based approach. She even slams Obama for not doing that:

Environmentalists do want a seat at the table, but it matters which table, and whether they’ll be treated as equal partners in the room. Sierra Club trade program director Ben Beachy pointed out that during negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP (formed by Obama but scrapped by President Trump), the energy committee had representatives from Chevron, Haliburton, and the National Mining Association, but not one environmentalist.

But more notably she supports a concrete way to force other countries to comply:

I will push to secure a multilateral agreement to protect domestic green policies like subsidies for green products and preferential treatment for environmentally sustainable energy production from WTO challenges. And because big corporations will move their production to the countries with the weakest greenhouse gas emissions standards — undermining global efforts to address climate change and penalizing countries that are doing their part — I will impose a border carbon adjustment so imported goods that these firms make using carbon-intensive processes are charged a fee to equalize the costs borne by companies playing by the rules.

There's nothing quantitative in her policy vision, but then Trump was also non-specific in that (quantitative) respect before he won the election, if I'm not mistaken.

It's also noteworthy what she isn't mentioning as an explicit problem, namely the bilateral trade deficit with China or with other specific countries, Germany in particular. While Trump's complaint about the deficit with China can be attributed in no small part to to lax environmental and labor policies in China (although Trump seems to prefer to slam them on IP theft/unfairness), so it's probably easy to guess that Warren won't be exactly happy with China either, it's harder to see how one can attribute the US trade deficit with Germany (for example) to environmental or labor conditions over there. I'm not saying Germany would be off the hook in Warren's approach, but it's less obvious how (trade with) Germany could would be penalized under her vision.

She also makes no mention (at least in that statement) of using national security considerations a key part of the trade policy. For those who don't know, Trump's administration has even produced a section 232 document on cars this spring, although no tariffs have been raised using that yet (unlike the section 232 decision on steel and aluminium); the tariff decision for cars has been postponed for 180 days. The official 232 document on cars says for example

The United States defense industrial base depends on the American-owned automotive sector for the development of technologies that are essential to maintaining our military superiority.


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