President Trump has taken many by surprise with his recent threats to impose global tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Presumably seeking to deliver policy goods to his political base, the remarks appear aimed to support the principally white male workers in the steel and aluminum industries. But if these tariffs are imposed, negative consequences will hit a whole host of other workers, and women workers in particular. Trade, too, is a gendered policy area. Trade issues formed a central pillar of Trump’s campaign promises, which emphasized re-negotiating multilateral and bilateral trade agreements and increasing tariffs on imported goods from specific countries (China, Mexico) as well as across the board. These promises appealed to voters who saw globalization generally and free trade deals in particular as detrimental to American jobs and workers.
Top six memes celebrating the first 100 days of Trump Administration policies on trade.
Yesterday, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström accepted the Association of Women in International Trade’s prestigious woman of the year award in Washington, D.C. In her acceptance speech, “Building bridges, smashing glass ceilings”, Commissioner Malmström emphasized that trade liberalization and gender equality are mutually supportive, noting that the two most trade-enabling countries in the world —The Netherlands and Singapore— are also “highly gender equal” when it comes to wages. This point is an important one to emphasize within the current debate on the costs and benefits of trade agreements to which the United States is a party, and is supported by research.
If OSHA rules are discarded, this will hurt workers of all genders, but in starkly different ways. Data, for instance, suggest men and women suffer differentially in workplace accidents. According to OSHA’s workplace fatality data, there were 1,268 workplace fatalities in fiscal year 2015.
The Trump administration has made opposition to trade and offshoring a hallmark of its economic and social policies. Its “America First” strategy, which President Trump introduced in his inaugural address, paints globalization in especially stark and violent terms: “The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world… We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.” The focus on the destruction of jobs has been central to Trump’s campaign and his early presidency, and appears to be a very targeted message: we are going to save the jobs of white, working class men.
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