Trump and Trade
     The founding of the Virginia colonies in the New World by the Virginia Company reflected the notion of the British Empire that through trade would come enlightenment. By the post-war era this was unequivocally adopted by U.S. policymakers.
     This belief in the linkage between trade and the spread of liberal values has been the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy for over 75 years. It was the underpinning of the U.S. architecture of a rules-based system of international trade and investment that has evolved since the adoption of the Bretton Woods system, the GATT and subsequently by the WTO. It resulted in historical U.S  and global  growth and of liberal democracy.
     Now what?
     The election of Donald Trump as a protectionist president proclaiming “America First” jeopardizes this post-war historical development of a firmly  grounded international political system. But also state, national, and international economic development is at stake.
     Today’s failure of TPP to even come up for a vote in Congress, not only impairs the economic leadership of the U.S., but also the national security and foreign policy of the US. In both Asia and the larger global system. It provides openings for other countries to compete more effectively against the US politically and economically. It puts US firms and industries at risk.
     The incomprehensible failure of US domestic policy over the last eight years was its failure to provide effective legislation and policies directly aimed at those left behind in this new era of hyper-globalization.
     Yes. That was a terrible blunder. Instead of focusing on interest rates day-after-day we should have  specifically targeted jobs. Period. Too bad. We can’t go back.  No, we can’t have a do over.
      By the way many other countries are facing this same failure including the UK, France and Turkey, among others. This is what has been called the rise of ‘populist nationalism.’ It led to nothing good in the 1930s where it was nurtured by unemployment, persecution of populations, protectionism and extreme nationalism.
      But the challenge is now for the U.S. to put in place immediately a broad range of domestic policies of trade adjustment assistance, public and private reinvestment into infrastructure, and global tax reform to recapture the billions of offshore dollars being hoarded by US multinationals, among others. This is a start. To do otherwise is crack thinking that would unfortunately reflect our national opioid scourge. One scourge is enough.
     It’s certainly not too late to start over. No one wants a replay of the 1930s or the end of the last era of globalization that was ended by a single gun shot in Sarajevo.

About Stuart Malawer

Distinguished Service Professor of Law & International Trade at George Mason University (Schar School of Public Policy).
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