Critics of Donald Trump “America First” economic nationalism are undoubtedly correct when they assert that his policies will raise consumer prices or, put concretely, the $5 made-in-who knows where but probably overseas shirt from Walmart may be history. But, the awaiting price increase is only part of the larger financial perspective, and if viewed more broadly, the picture looks less bleak.
The costs of economic nationalism can be viewed from two vantage points. The dominant perspective, and the one usually favored by multi-national businesses, is to focus on imports as an unqualified good deal for consumers. It is an alluring argument — after all, how many shoppers will pay a premium for an item that comes with a “100% made-in-America” tag? Imagine if Walmart offered imported products side-by-side with those costing a third or more? A no-brainer or so it would seem. In other words, trade agreements like NAFTA and cheap immigrant labor are a boon for bargain-minded American consumers.