I believe strongly in free trade but it also has to be fair trade. It's been a long time since we had fair trade. The first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the "abandonment of the protective policy by the American government… will produce want and ruin among our people." Lincoln was right -- and it's time we heeded his advice and his words. (Applause.) I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers be taken advantage of us any longer. They have taken advantage of our country. No longer. (Applause.)The Lincoln line is from an 1847 tariff discussion.
Ronald Reagan had a different view of protectionism:
You see, at first, when someone says, "Let's impose tariffs on foreign imports," it looks like they're doing the patriotic thing by protecting American products and jobs. And sometimes for a short while it works-but only for a short time. What eventually occurs is: First, homegrown industries start relying on government protection in the form of high tariffs. They stop competing and stop making the innovative management and technological changes they need to succeed in world markets. And then, while all this is going on, something even worse occurs. High tariffs inevitably lead to retaliation by foreign countries and the triggering of fierce trade wars. The result is more and more tariffs, higher and higher trade barriers, and less and less competition. So, soon, because of the prices made artificially high by tariffs that subsidize inefficiency and poor management, people stop buying. Then the worst happens: Markets shrink and collapse; businesses and industries shut down; and millions of people lose their jobs.