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Former South Carolina governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is the latest GOP presidential aspirant to take to the opinion pages. As the title of this write-up suggests, Haley imagines using powers as President that would suffocate the markets.

Haley’s focus is China. She says policymakers were incorrect in presuming that “trading with China would free China.” She misses twice. The most crucial attribute of trade in a global sense is that it makes war between countries very expensive. Which is why Americans should be free to engage in commerce not just because we laudably choose freedom of exchange and association stateside, but also because it also provides the important benefit of national security: people rarely shoot at, bomb, or otherwise try to kill their best customers.

That trade associates with a freer China is tautological. And Haley should know why given her professed belief in free markets. Really, when have economically unfree people ever been worth trading with? Even without embargoes what, other than cigars, could the Cubans export to us? Looking back in time, how much exchange was there between Soviet and American producers? That the Chinese people produce so much for us, and that American producers produce so much for the Chinese (China is the second largest market for McDonald’s, Nike, Starbucks, Hollywood, etc.)  is a certain sign that while the Chinese sadly aren’t as personally free as the American people, their economic freedom has soared in modern times. Call it progress.

Haley says she’ll “do everything” to “prevent China from buying any more land and force it to sell what it already owns.” Normally the inflow of capital is a good, growth-oriented notion. And it’s also peaceful. Again, who wants to bomb what they own? Haley claims she’ll “ban all lobbying from the Communist Party and Chinese companies which are front groups for the regime.” Ok, but why? As Republicans don’t we know that whatever government touches it weakens? If Chinese companies really are CCP puppets, they’ll fail. And discredit the CCP in the process. 

Haley says she’s “a firm believer in economic freedom,” but the belief is seemingly gossamer thin. She promises to “push American businesses to leave China as completely as possible.” Except that a free market advocate would trust the actions of those in the market.

Haley wants the Commerce Department to decide what American companies can sell in China, because it “keeps a detailed list of the most sensitive technologies that are dangerous to export.” This is naïve, and not just because Commerce shouldn't be empowered to plan trade. There’s also no accounting for the final destination of any good. Short of shutting companies with “sensitive technologies” down altogether, selling to China they will be doing; albeit indirectly if Haley gets to foist restrictive policies on them.

Haley promises to “revoke permanent normal trade relations” with China “until the flow of fentanyl ends.” Her views imply that if we just cut off the flow from China, that somehow demand for fentanyl will decline. Lots of luck there. Actual markets always and everywhere speak loudly over politicians. Translated, the fentanyl problem is a domestic one.

Haley wants to “transform the U.S. military” given her belief that it’s “the best way to keep the peace.” No, the best path to peace is trade, simply because the latter once again makes war so incredibly expensive. This is crucial in light of Haley’s claim that the “Communist Party is preparing for war.”

Imports strengthen the importing country, and they make war foolhardy. In other words, the best China policy is free markets. The problem is that Haley’s support for them is suspect.

John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, Vice President at FreedomWorks, a senior fellow at the Market Institute, and a senior economic adviser to Applied Finance Advisors (www.appliedfinance.com). His latest book is The Money Confusion: How Illiteracy About Currencies and Inflation Sets the Stage For the Crypto Revolution.

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