WASHINGTON, DC: March 02, 2017. With the confirmation of Trump's billionaire Florida neighbor Wilbur Ross as U.S. Commerce secretary, a recent Gallup poll says a record 72 percent of Americans see foreign trade as an opportunity for economic growth.
During his confirmation hearing in January, Ross told members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation: "China is the most protectionist country of very large countries. They talk much more about free trade than they actually practice."
In setting out its trade policy for 2017 this week, the Trump Administration argued: "While the current global trading system has been great for China, since the turn of the century it has not generated the same results for the United States."
Gallup said its latest poll is an increase from a previous level of 58 percent and is prompted by Trump's declaration to put "America First" in renegotiating NAFTA, or replacing multilateral trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) with bilateral ones.
Seventy-one percent of Americans now think promoting favorable trade for the U.S. is a "very important" foreign policy goal, up from 66 percent in 2013, the last time the question was asked.
According to Gallup all the political parties have increased their views that trade is an economic opportunity. Among Democrats, it has risen 17 points to 80 percent, while among Republicans it has increased 16 points to 66 percent. The rise is smaller among independents it noted, up eight points to 71 percent.
Despite the cancellation of the TPP, viewing foreign trade as an economic opportunity is now at a record high level among politicians. The previous high mark for Democrats was 66 percent in 2013, and for Republicans it was 57 percent in 2002. Since 2012, Democrats have been more positive about trade than Republicans have been, Gallup concluded.
The Trump Administration said its approach to trade is designed to increase economic growth, promote job creation in the U.S., promote reciprocity with the country's trading partners, strengthen America's manufacturing base and "our ability to defend ourselves", and to expand agricultural and services industry exports.
"As a general matter, we believe that these goals can be best accomplished by focusing on bilateral negotiations rather than multilateral negotiations – and by renegotiating and revising trade agreements when our goals are not being met," it added.