“We should beware of the demagogues who are ready to declare a trade war against our friends—weakening our economy, our national security, and the entire free world—all while cynically waving the American flag.”
Yup, apparently that's straight from the Gipper's mouth.
Our search for the provenance of the quote led us to a radio address delivered by Reagan (one of his last as president) on 26 November 1988. In it, he referred to protectionism as “a cheap form of nationalism” and told Americans that “[o]ur peaceful trading partners are not our enemies; they are our allies.”
"Part of the difficulty in accepting the good news about trade is in our words. We too often talk about trade while using the vocabulary of war. In war, for one side to win, the other must lose. But commerce is not warfare. Trade is an economic alliance that benefits both countries. There are no losers, only winners. And trade helps strengthen the free world.
"Yet today protectionism is being used by some American politicians as a cheap form of nationalism, a fig leaf for those unwilling to maintain America’s military strength and who lack the resolve to stand up to real enemies — countries that would use violence against us or our allies. Our peaceful trading partners are not our enemies; they are our allies. We should beware of the demagogues who are ready to declare a trade war against our friends — weakening our economy, our national security, and the entire free world — all while cynically waving the American flag. The expansion of the international economy is not a foreign invasion; it is an American triumph, one we worked hard to achieve, and something central to our vision of a peaceful and prosperous world of freedom."