We discussed this topic in Al-Jazeera talk-show with other guests. Protectionism or free markets?
Below are the basic points of dialogue on TV
Markets like Trump. They care about substance, not form.
Although media coverage of Trump’s work tends to be negative, many foreign investors in Davos have shown great interest in America and are ready to invest, also attracted by the tax reduction promoted by Trump. During a dinner that Trump had with foreign investors, the figures at the table were in the billions of dollars for each investor. Apple also announced a large capital investment in America. Who knows if, in Italy, the Flat tax proposed by some parties will have the same positive effect when combined with many other reforms, of course.
“America First, no America Alone”. The president is like a CEO: he must think of his citizens
Trump has never supported commercial isolation with the rest of the world. Trump said he would give priority to the well-being of the Americans, as it should be, but that he will cooperate with all the other countries in the world, on condition that the commercial conditions are fair and reciprocal. The clear reference is to China which does not apply these conditions, hence the 30% duties imposed last week. I made the comparison between the CEO of a company and the president of a country: just as the CEO has a fiduciary obligation to its shareholders to increase the value of the shares, the government of a country has a duty to increase the well-being of its own citizens.
Protecting some sectors does not mean being protectionists
Trump is not a protectionist. Trump tries to protect some sectors of the American economy and for a limited period of time. Trump has never announced that he wants to cancel trade with other countries, rather he wants to regulate it, to control the flow so that the system does not take the upper hand at the expense of the American population. The main objection to this logic that many liberals make is that the imposition of duties not only does not help but actually damages that sector of the economy that Trump wants to protect. In practice, they claim that the imposition of duties is counter-productive
Protectionism or liberalism: the liberalists are, in fact, more extremists.
During my speech, I also underlined how the approach of those who support liberalism in international trade is different from those who are in favour of protectionism. The fundamental difference is that the liberalists support the free market at all costs, a bit like a mantra that always works everywhere. Those who are liberalist tend to be 100% so. Protectionists, on the other hand, do not support 100% protectionism, no one says that it is necessary to cancel trade with other countries and return to autarky. Instead, protectionists simply want to take measures, here and there, to protect some particularly fragile industrial sectors. So it is a partial protectionism, not as ideological as liberalism is, it is aimed only at some sectors and, more importantly, limited in time: no duty is imposed with the idea that it will perpetual, they are only temporary measures. Even the latest duties on washing machines and solar panels imposed by Trump will be brought to zero in 5 years, but this is not reported by the media.