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The reality is that Trump's trade measures to date amount to small potatoes.Just as Trump's policies violate the spirit, if not the letter, of today's trade agreements, Reagan's trade restrictions exploited loopholes in existing arrangements. Trump's protectionism may well have very different consequences; history need not repeat itself. For one thing, even though their overall impact remains limited, Trump's trade restrictions have more of a unilateral, in-your-face quality. Much of Reagan's protectionism was negotiated with trade partners and designed to ease the economic burden on exporters.Indeed, these companies may even have become more profitable thanks to U.S. trade restrictions.Trump's unilateralism will cause greater anger among trade partners, and thus is more likely to generate retaliation.While Trump's policies purportedly aim to restore fairness in global trade, they exacerbate rather than ameliorate these problems. As Jared Bernstein and Dean Baker point out, Trump's tariffs are likely to benefit a small minority of workers in protected industries at the expense of a large majority of other workers in downstream industries and elsewhere.
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