Trump’s Dual Narrative — Promoting Foreign Policy and National Security Chaos?

                            General Kelly during President Trump’s Speech at the U.N.
     Trump’s combative speech to the United Nations continued his outrageous dual narrative. One, American sovereignty has been gravely eroded by its participation in multilateral institutions such as the U.N. and the WTO. Two, only protectionism and “America First” can revive the American economy. Policies based upon this dual notion can only lead to economic and national security chaos.
     Trump blindly overlooked the economic and political history of the United States since the 19th century. One that demonstrates a reliance upon lowering tariffs, promoting free markets and welcoming immigration to expand our national and international commerce. Trump’s diatribe to the U.N. used the word “sovereignty” 21 times. He decried “unaccountable international tribunals.”
     The USTR Robert Lighthizer few days later, standing before the Center for Strategic Studies, whistled his old tune about the WTO, one from his days as representing his steel clients who lost most of its cases before the WTO. He declared that “[T]he World Trade Organization is not equipped to deal with this problem.” He went on to decry that its dispute resolution system “has really diminished what we bargained for or imposed obligations that we do not believe we agreed to.” He went on to state that its decisions concerning dumping, subsidies and trade remedies  “are really indefensible.” 
     How self-serving are those private views that have now become U.S. trade policy?
     The US is the biggest user of the dispute resolution system and has won most cases it filed and a large number of cases filed against it. A really good record. Our closest allies condemn us for not living up to rulings against the US concerning trade remedy cases and our incessant dumping and subsidy actions. They despise out Section 301 law and its threat of unilateral retaliation. The U.S. was the architect of the WTO’s dispute resolution system as in fact it was of the post-war economic system.
      To me the split between the “economic nationalists” and “globalists” in the White House need to be quickly resolved. President Trump needs to “pivot” away from his campaign rhetoric to professional foreign policy positions.  Reliance on this dual narrative as we go forward would be a fatal distraction from promoting economic development and confronting real national security challenges. U.S. national security deserves better than this insane rhetoric.











About Stuart Malawer

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