What China and Mexico (and many other countries) are doing is manipulating their currency to capture large segments of many American markets. Once they put the international competition out of business (read, us) they then have full control of prices which they can inflate to their hearts content. (see the Rare Earths market)
OPEC is currently doing the same thing to the international oil market. They are attempting to starve out the Frackers here in the US, (as well as any other oil supplier – including their own OPEC partners – see Venezuela) and they hope that once they have killed fracking (among others) they will again be free to resume controlling the market price.
Last year, Trump challenged the US’ current “free trade” regime and made the assertion that countries like China “beat” us all the time, and that our current free trade policies need to be rethought. As many Republicans are believers in free trade and support our current policies, this naturally ignited a firestorm of controversy, accusations of heresy, etc. Unfortunately, such back-and-forth election year rhetoric has made it hard to have serious discussions about this topic.
There is a reason that there is a Customs House building near every single post office in the United States. Import & Customs taxes were how our government funded itself for the first 150 years or so of our history.
Lastly the export markets aren’t reciprocally free. Anyone that has considered selling anything on the international market might be surprised at the amount of red tape and taxes that are involved to bring American products to any other countries market.
If there is no reciprocity then it is not a “Free Trade” deal, it’s just another a screw job targeted at the United States.
I for one am not committed to economic suicide by “Free Market”. I actually don’t see how that can possibly be a “conservative” position at all.