Donald Trump, the 2016 GOP presidential frontrunner, threatened Monday to undermine two cornerstones of U.S. foreign policy since the end of World War II: U.S. security assistance and American trade norms.
During a question-and-answer session in New York, Trump, who had just launched his tax plan, launched into a missive in which he said he would renegotiate U.S. trade pacts, agreements he said cost Americans jobs. As for nations that host U.S. military bases, Trump said he would charge those governments for the American presence.
“I’m going to renegotiate our trade deals, because our trade deals are not sustainable by this country, not sustainable,” the billionaire real estate mogul said. “We cannot continue to let our jobs go to all of the different countries. There’s not a country that we negotiate with that doesn’t make a better deal, everybody. We’re losing money with everything.”
Trump continued: “I’m also going to renegotiate some of our military costs because we protect South Korea. We protect Germany. We protect some of the wealthiest countries in the world, Saudi Arabia. We protect everybody. We protect everybody and we don’t get reimbursement. We lose on everything. We lose on everything, so we’re going to negotiate and renegotiate trade deals, military deals, many other deals that’s going to get the cost down for running our country very significantly.”
Trump then got into a specific example: Saudi Arabia, one of the more important U.S. allies in the Middle East. Saudis “make a billion dollars a day. We protect them. So we need help. We are losing a tremendous amount of money on a yearly basis and we owe $19 trillion,” he said.
Walking back trade deals and agreements that allow the U.S. military to operate overseas is easier said than done. The next American president can’t simply take office and declare them null and void without serious repercussions, both in terms of economic fallout and angry allies around the world.
Trump is hitting at two of the most important ways the United States has spread power and influence since the end of the Cold War. Globalization, led by the United States, has distributed economic prosperity worldwide. The presence of the U.S. troops around the world has allowed Washington to have a say in nearly all areas of international affairs. Both are cornerstones of how Washington does business abroad.
This makes both areas good ground for Trump to hunt. He’s tapped into a powerful anti-Washington populist sentiment among Republicans that have left more traditional candidates like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida scrambling to match, although Trump’s lead has decreased significantly.
Trump’s pro-America, anti-everyone-else message was evident later in the press conference, when he signaled out individual nations as responsible for the loss of American jobs.
“China, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, these countries are all taking our jobs like we are a bunch of babies,” Trump said. “That will stop. People will treat us fairly, if I become president.”
“We are losing our jobs, we are losing our base, we’re losing our manufacturing — all of that will stop,” he added.
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