US Economy

Conservative think tank says US economy has shifted under Trump

Key Points
  • The U.S. scored better on a 2018 index of "economic freedom" from conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation.
  • The change is largely due to President Donald Trump's deregulation efforts, the organization said.
Hong Kong tops economic freedom index

One conservative think tank is pronouncing the U.S. economy more "free" under President Donald Trump's efforts to reduce regulations.

The U.S. ranked 18th in a 2018 index of global "economic freedom" by The Heritage Foundation — which corresponded to a 0.6 percent score improvement from the previous year.

The right wing organization defined "freedom" as a metric largely about how much governmental policies allow labor, capital and goods to flow unregulated.

"We're very upbeat about the U.S. and where it's going ... the reason why it did so much better in this year's ranking is because of the early deregulation from the Trump era," Edwin Feulner, founder and former president of the Washington-based group, told CNBC. "The U.S., like it or not, is still the engine that pulls the world train."

The country's progress in the 2018 index marks a reversal of a decade-long decline.

"It was just 12 years ago that the United States was fifth in the world, now it's 18th — that's not a good run for the last 10 years," said Feulner. "The United States has not only stopped the decline, it's moving in the right direction."

The Heritage Foundation only studied data up until June 30 for the 2018 index, Feulner noted, so the U.S. would have done "much better" by the right wing assessment if recent tax reforms were included in the score.

The White House's recent $1.5 trillion tax bill, which slashed corporate taxes to 21 percent from 35 percent previously, alongside other deregulation moves are expected by some to drive investments and growth.

Asian economies occupied four out of the top five spots on The Heritage Foundation's index. Financial centers Hong Kong and Singapore retained their top two spots for 24 straight years, while China ranked 110th.