Free trade flip flop

In 2013, Trump wanted to ‘leave borders behind and go for global unity’

Getty/Scott Olson

Since announcing his run for the presidency, Donald Trump’s campaign has seized on xenophobia and American workers’ economic woes. In response to voters’ worries, he offers an “America First”-style nationalism and, as a centerpiece of his campaign, a hardline protectionism that economists worry would hobble the U.S.

But Trump didn’t always sing this tune. In 2013—yes, 2013, only three years ago—in an op-ed for CNN, which was dug up by Business Insider, Trump offered a very different, globalist outlook on borders and trade.

“We will have to leave borders behind and go for global unity when it comes to financial stability,” Trump wrote in the op-ed. “We are now closer to having an economic community in the best sense of the term—we work with each other for the benefit of all.”

Trump’s op-ed was nominally about investment in Europe—”The future of Europe, as well as the United States, depends on a cohesive global economy”—but it’s hard to see how his message wouldn’t have a broader application. “What has been made clear by current events and financial upheavals since 2008 is that the global economy has become truly that—global,” he wrote emphatically at the top of his piece.

The revelation of Trump’s open borders talk comes just as the Trump campaign is launching attacks against his Democratic rival for the Oval Office, Hillary Clinton. One of the emails from Clinton campaign honcho John Podesta dumped online by Wikileaks contained excerpts of paid speeches her team deemed potentially harmful. (Disclosure: Podesta ran the Center for American Progress when I worked there in 2011 and 2012.)

One of the excerpts referred to remarks Clinton had made in a paid appearance before a Brazilian bank: “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere,” Clinton apparently said in the speech.

Clinton’s campaign has responded that her call was specifically in the context of trade for green energy initiatives (though it’s impossible to know without seeing the full speeches), but that didn’t stop Trump’s campaign from seizing on the remarks to attack Clinton—the latest in his often xenophobic fear-mongering about immigration to the U.S.

In an attack just last week on Fox News’s website, Trump surrogate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich warned that Clinton’s “secret goal” would spell the end of America. He said Clinton’s plan would mean not only unchecked immigration of potentially millions of people from North, Central and South America, but also unchecked terrorist threats, drug smuggling and infectious diseases.

It’s not clear how terrorism, drugs and disease would run amok if Trump’s call to “leave borders behind and go for global unity” was heeded—but it might actually help the U.S. economy.