From signing tax reform into law, to enforcing our immigration policies to, most recently, enforcing a key international trade agreement, President Trump has already made significant strides with his campaign pledge to “Make America Great Again.”
The slogan “Make America Great Again” was always much more than a catchy phrase for bumper stickers; it was the unifying theme that knit together all of Trump’s policy objectives. And, while making America great again benefits all Americans, there was one primary demographic group with whom the message especially resonated - American workers. American workers have witnessed their slipping importance and relevance in Washington as politicians have routinely prioritized Silicon Valley, Wall Street and other crony capitalist interests over the needs of America’s working families.
But all of that is changing with Mr. Trump in the White House.
Just last week, the president again demonstrated his commitment to America’s workers - this time with the announcement that the White House is requiring Qatar to live up to the terms of the Open Skies agreement.
During the U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue in January, the Trump administration announced that Qatar has agreed to disclose its financials in a more detailed and transparent way than it has previously. Why does this matter? For years, the government of Qatar funneled billions of dollars in the form of subsidies to Qatar Airways in direct violation of the Open Skies agreement with the United States. The Open Skies agreement with Qatar - a bilateral trade deal allowing travel between the two countries - stipulated that neither government could distort the marketplace by providing mass subsidies. But that is exactly what Qatar did for more than a decade, pumping a shocking $25 billion into its state-owned airline.
Qatar has not been alone in its flagrant violation of the Open Skies agreement. The United Arab Emirates has also thumbed its nose at the agreements, choosing to subsidize its two state-owned airlines, Emirates and Etihad Airways.
The effects of this type of government subsidizing are catastrophic. In the short-term, these governments’ interference in the marketplace undercuts U.S. airlines and forces our airlines to compete not with other airlines, but with oil-rich governments - an unequal playing field, if ever there were one. In the long-run, this type of tampering with the marketplace would drive U.S. airlines out of business. American workers were right to be concerned about these violations of the trade agreements, which directly threaten the 1.2 million U.S. jobs that rely on a healthy aviation industry.
Qatar and the UAE have both engaged in dishonest accounting methods to distort and conceal the truth about the extent to which the governments have kept the three state-owned airlines afloat. Thanks to President Trump’s persistence, Qatar is now committing for the first time to provide more transparency in its record-keeping.
The Trump administration’s win with Qatar is a win for everyone who supports the free market and believes winners and losers in the market should be determined through fair competition - not through heavy-handed government programs or massive government subsidies.
The Trump administration’s agreement with Qatar means that one of the most heavily subsidized airline carriers in the world, Qatar Airways, will be forced to play by the rules - a welcome change, indeed.
Perhaps the best part of the new agreement with Qatar is the ripple effect it is likely to have with other countries - most notably the UAE. As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in announcing the agreement with Qatar: “The president has made this matter a priority, and the outcome we achieved will ensure a level playing field in the global aviation market.” The UAE should view this announcement as a new era in treaty enforcement - one in which the United States takes seriously trade violations that disrupt the market and unfairly disadvantage U.S. workers.
Previous administrations, especially the Obama administration, treated U.S. workers as mere afterthoughts in policy-making. It is encouraging that the Trump administration has put American workers’ needs front and center in policy decisions. Americans should take note of how Mr. Trump’s Make America Great Again agenda has already transformed U.S. policy-making.
And, for that matter, the United Arab Emirates might want to pay attention to that, too.