Trump’s Attack on the Trade System and Rules — Main Show About to Start?

Malawer, “One Year In — Trump’s Trade Legacy,Richmond Times-Dispatch (January 7, 2018).  


The following is an excerpt from my op-ed in this weekend’s Richmond-Times Dispatch …………..

U.S. leadership in developing newer rules for global trade and in litigating existing concrete and complex cases cannot be abrogated. It should be one of the primary aims in current U.S. trade policy.


President Trump’s well-known disregard of rules, stemming in part from his years of unrelenting real estate litigation, undoubtedly colors his administration’s disdain for multilateral rules and institutions and its espousal of unilateral actions in global affairs.

The impact on the role of the U.S. in the postwar order seems most worrisome. China, Japan, and the European Union are the ones moving to fill the leadership gap. Most recently, Japan and the EU signed a huge bilateral trade agreement.

The U.S. is increasingly isolationist and parochial, reminding one of the 1930s in terms of the pre-Cordell Hull days of the Great Depression. Trump’s revisionist view of U.S. national interests is different from other presidents since World War II. These views are moving away from active engagement and moving toward being more isolationist and more nationalist.

It abandons the American architecture of the postwar world and its leadership. It creates more uncertainty and promotes disorder. That’s not good.

The administration’s recently released national security strategy merely restates President Trump’s belligerent trade rhetoric. It moves trade to the center of national security policy. But this strategy otherwise breaks no new ground. There are the same trade complaints: unfair trade, violations of U.S. sovereignty, disparagement of multilateral institutions, and a need for greater trade enforcement.

President Trump’s nihilistic efforts are those of an international cowboy, rebranding, unfortunately, the earlier stereotype of the Ugly American. Reflecting the views of his tribal and nativist base in the U.S., the traditional Republicans and their support of international trade have inexplicably fallen away and are complicit in the humiliation of America’s historical leadership and greatness.

About Stuart Malawer

Distinguished Service Professor of Law & International Trade at George Mason University (Schar School of Public Policy).
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1 Response to Trump’s Attack on the Trade System and Rules — Main Show About to Start?

  1. Personaly, living in Canada, I never adhered to the Ugly American stereotype. USA was a country I admired, and US Presidents deserved respect. Since about a year my views have changed totaly.

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