President Donald Trump's Economic Plans and Policies

How They Impacted the U.S. Economy

President Donald Trump

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Republican Donald John Trump was the 45th president of the United States, serving from 2017 to 2021. In 2016, Trump campaigned under the slogan "Make America Great Again" to garner the support of voters who felt that the country had lost stature. Donald Trump was a firm supporter of economic nationalism.

Learn more about President Trump's economic policies and how they affected the U.S. economy.

The Covid-19 Pandemic

On March 13, 2020, Trump proclaimed a national emergency to control the spread of the pandemic. He signed four stimulus laws that provided more than $2 trillion to agencies, businesses, and families dealing with the crisis. 

Trump launched Operation Warp Speed to develop and distribute safe vaccines and treatments in record time and invoked the Defense Production Act to get assistance from U.S. manufacturers to produce 187,000 ventilators.

In December 2020, President Trump signed the Covid-19 Economic Relief Act, providing much-needed financial assistance to industries, small businesses, families, and workers.

Climate Change

Trump's "America First" energy plan started with an announcement in June 2017 that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

In 2017, Trump rescinded President Obama's Climate Action Plan and allowed agency heads to review policies and report on obstructions of domestic energy production. This led to improvements in the approval process for oil drilling on public land, which increased the rate of approvals by 36%.

In June 2019, the Trump administration replaced the Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy rule, giving states more power to establish regulations and determine the best methods for reducing emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.


Trump's trade policies sought to reduce the U.S. trade deficit. His first action was the U.S. withdrawal from further negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was the world's largest trade agreement. The Trump administration renegotiated NAFTA with Canada and Mexico, creating the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The most significant change to NAFTA was that auto companies were required to manufacture more parts within the USMCA trade area.

Trump's trade policies promoted mercantilism and used protectionism to defend U.S. industries from foreign competition.

In 2018, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, because Iran was not compliant. The agreement had been signed in 2015 to remove sanctions on Iran's oil exports in exchange for a reduction in the country's nuclear program.

In March 2018, the Trump administration announced a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum imports. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned that U.S. auto production would decrease by 4% and cost 624,000 Americans their jobs if affected countries were to retaliate with tariffs of their own.

President Trump implemented trade restrictions with China in an attempt to lower the U.S. trade deficit and encourage Americans to buy more domestic goods.

The administration imposed three tariffs on a total of $250 billion in Chinese imports. The Federal Reserve (The Fed) estimated that these tariffs would cost the average household $419 per year.

In 2019, President Trump imposed a fourth tariff. He raised tariffs to 25% on $200 billion worth of goods. The Fed estimated that this tariff, combined with the previous 2018 tariffs, would cost the average household $831 per year.

China retaliated with tariffs on $110 billion of U.S. products. In December 2019, Trump announced a trade deal between the U.S. and China. In the Phase One trade deal, China agreed to increase imports of U.S. goods by $200 billion annually, and the U.S. agreed to cut tariffs on some goods by half.


Throughout 2020, China failed to live up to the agreed-upon trade amounts.

Health Care

Trump's health care policies focused on two areas: addressing healthcare issues and reducing drug costs.


During his campaign, Trump promised to repeal and replace Obamacare. Although he wasn't successful, he launched many initiatives that changed portions of the law. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) repealed the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) tax penalties for those who didn't have health insurance.

President Trump's plans aimed to reduce spending on Medicaid by allowing states to establish work requirements and reduce the number of people eligible for the program. They also provided incentives to increase recipient copays and other patient costs and reduce program benefits.

Drug Prices

To lower drug prices, Trump signed a 2020 executive order requiring health centers to pass any discounts on insulin and epinephrine to their patients. Through participating and enhanced Medicare Part D plans, a month's supply of insulin was available for a $35 copay.

The order further required the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reduce prices of prescription medications for Medicare Parts B and D by not purchasing medicines at more than the most-favored-nation price.

The U.S. National Debt

The national debt increased by almost 36% in less than four years. In October 2020, it surpassed $27 trillion. While the debt more than tripled in 2020, it was mainly due to the spread of coronavirus and the necessary economic stimulus packages and legislation that followed.

The national debt has been rising since the 1980s, and it is projected to continue regardless of who is in office. Debt is forecast to grow to levels not seen since World War II.

Much of the continuous rise in debt over President Trump's term was due to increased mandatory spending on Social Security and Medicare and increased discretionary spending on the military.


Trump's immigration policies focused on reducing legal immigration and eliminating illegal immigration. He worked to complete the wall along the border with Mexico and to lessen the number of refugees and asylum seekers by making the application process difficult.

Legal Immigration

Between 2017 and 2020, the Trump administration set stricter standards for legal immigration applicants, such as specific refugee guidelines restricting approvals. He also granted federal and state authorities more power to track immigrants, investigate violations, and enforce immigration laws.

Trump's policies also allowed authorities to set up detention centers for immigrants entering under non-legal means. In 2018, Trump issued a zero-tolerance policy that briefly separated immigrant children from their parents, before it was ended due to widespread outcry.


Trump's policies reduced the number of immigrant visas issued between 2016 and 2019, from 617,752 to 462,422.

Border Wall

One crucial part of Trump's immigration plan was to complete the wall along the 1,954-mile U.S. border with Mexico. While construction was not finished, Trump added another 450 miles to the wall before leaving office.

Asylum Seekers and Refugees

In 2018, the Trump administration increased the requirements for the refugee-screening process. As a result, only 22,491 refugees were resettled that year, the lowest figure since 1980. He ordered that asylum seekers be returned to Mexico while waiting for the asylum process to begin their hearings.

Via a memorandum to the Secretary of State, for fiscal year 2019, President Trump authorized 30,000 refugees to be admitted to the U.S. At the end of the year, 29,916 refugees were admitted from Africa, East Asia, Europe, Central Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Near East and South Asia regions.


President Trump faced an uphill battle in stopping immigration, because conditions in some Latin American countries were so bad. Half of the Central American immigrants left because there wasn't enough food.


While campaigning in 2016, Trump promised to create 25 million jobs. If accomplished, it would have been more jobs than any other president created.

To create jobs, President Trump developed the Rebuild America plan, which legislators stalled. It outlined $200 billion in spending over 10 years to leverage billions in business spending and claimed to reduce the permit process time by eight years.

However, Trump still created 6.6 million jobs between 2017 and 2019. That was before the 2020 pandemic-induced recession, which cost the economy 20.5 million jobs in April 2020 alone.

By the end of 2020, the unemployment rate had declined to 6.7%. While significantly less than the high of 14.8% during the pandemic, it was still more than double the rate of unemployment pre-pandemic.

The Economic Policies of Other Presidents