What Does the Official 2024 Republican Party Platform Say about Manufacturing and Trade?

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Jul 09 2024 |
The 2024 Republican platform clearly shows the influence of former President Donald Trump, who is seeking to retake the White House in November. Photo via Creative Commons by Gage Skidmore

The GOP made sure to make manufacturing a key part of its 2024 platform. Here’s what is in it — and what is missing.

The Republican National Convention is set for next week in Milwaukee, a blue-collar town with a strong manufacturing history. Former President Donald Trump is expected to come to the Cream City for the big event, where he and fellow Republicans will present their case to the American people for why they deserve to win in November.

Given recent events involving both leading presidential candidates, we are making zero predictions about what may go down in Milwaukee, or a few weeks from now at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. It’s a long road to the election in November. We also won’t endorse any political candidate, as we are a nonpartisan organization dedicated to working with both parties to advance public policy that strengthens manufacturing and creates well-paid factory jobs.

All that said, we do think it is worthwhile to take a look at the specific policy recommendations both parties are putting forward. Today, we’ll start with the Republican National Committee, which released their official platform on Monday.

As many news organizations already have noted, the document reflects Trump’s signature style. There’s CAPITALIZATION throughout, and Trump’s distinct diction is very noticeable. The former president’s influence on the party is also seen in its policy platform; Trump has very obviously shifted GOP policy in a number of areas, some of which took many Republicans by surprise.

But for this blog, we’ll stick to the language that directly effects manufacturing policy, including trade. Much of that can be found in the document’s fifth agenda item, “STOP OUTSOURCING, AND TURN THE UNITED STATES INTO A MANUFACTURING SUPERPOWER.” 

In chapter five of the document, titled “PROTECT AMERICAN WORKERS AND FARMERS,” the party further dives into policy proposals, including:

  • The RNC pledges to prioritize rebalancing trade, including through baseline tariffs (which Trump has proposed at 10% for all goods and 60% for Chinese goods) and the Trump Reciprocal Trade Act, which he previously unveiled on his campaign website.
  • The party says it will “secure strategic independence from China,” including by revoking China’s favored nation trade status, which lowers trade barriers to the U.S. market, such as tariffs. The RNC also says it will “phase out imports of essential goods” and “stop China from buying American real estate and Industries.”
  • The party wants to “Save the American auto industry,” including by “reversing harmful Regulations.” The RNC takes a direct shot at President Biden’s record here, saying it will work to “cancel Biden’s Electric Vehicle and other Mandates.” The party also plans on “preventing the importation of Chinese vehicles.”
  • The RNC says it will “Buy American and Hire American,” a phrase Trump often used during his time in the Oval Office and led to an executive order on immigration, which Biden later revoked. In this part of the 2024 platform, the RNC says it will focus on strengthening “Buy American and Hire American Policies, banning companies that outsource jobs from doing business with the Federal Government.”

It’s striking that the RNC platform offers a fairly straightforward view on trade and manufacturing, given that the other big conservative platform being talked about right now — Project 2025 from the Heritage Foundation — is far more murky on these matters. Rather than offering a clear vision for trade, Project 2025 features a debate between two options, with “The Case for Fair Trade” put forth by former Trump official Peter Navarro and “The Case for Free Trade” written by Kent Lassman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

What this shows is that while there may be some lingering divide on trade and manufacturing issues amongst right wing think tank types, the official party line is being guided by Trump’s views on the matter — and Trump is clearly in favor of tariffs and limited trade. It’s his party now.

But the RNC platform does leave out a few things. While the RNC pledged it will “Bring Home Critical Supply Chains” and lead the United States to “Become the Manufacturing Superpower,” no policy specifics are given in those areas. While the RNC takes a shot at Biden over EVs, the party doesn’t specify where it stands on the type of industrial policy pursued by the Biden administration, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.

The current White House has been happy to tout the success of these measures, which as of today have led to $877 billion in investments across the United States. Aside from EV tax credits, where do Trump and the RNC stand on these laws? Will they pursue their own industrial policy if they retake the White House?

With the RNC platform released, we now wait for the Democrats to release their vision. That may take a few weeks, as the Democratic National Convention isn’t scheduled to start until Aug. 19. But given the Biden administration’s emphasis on manufacturing and trade over the past four years — including the industrial policy discussed above and recent action to raise tariffs in strategic areas — it’s likely that these issues will also have a spot in the platform. Stay tuned.