TRUMP’S THREATS AND TRADE POLICY — From His Real Estate Days in New York?

From a forthcoming article of mine …………….

My thesis is straightforward: One can draw a straight line from Donald Trump’s ruthless mode of operating in the contentious world of New York real estate to his operations on the world stage today.

From Queens to the world stage, there is a straight line from using threats and litigation to avoid commercial and contractual obligations to using threats and litigation in conducting U.S. foreign and trade policy. Especially as to policies pertaining to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and U.S.–China trade relations. His weaponization of tariffs and economic sanctions is now being wielded as a principal tool of U.S. foreign policy for the first time since the early 1930s.

Donald Trump’s methods of operating and conducting national security or foreign policy are exactly the same as they would be if he was engaged in real estate transactions and deals. To Donald Trump, trade policy, foreign policy, and national security policy are transactions and zero-sum games. He makes decisions with only a few people around him, including his family members, using threats and litigation to get his way.

President Trump’s ruthless approach has been employed in a  range of multilateral trade relations and bilateral agreements (such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and  the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement), and bilateral agreements with Korea and Japan. It has also gone beyond bilateral trade disputes by attacking the legitimacy of the WTO’s judicial system and, indeed, the WTO itself. Beyond trade, this caustic approach has been applied to a range of issues in American foreign policy. For example, the withdrawal by the United States from a broad list of international agreements and institutions, including the Iran nuclear deal, UNESCO, and the Paris Climate Accord.

The Trump administration has been employing tariffs and economic sanctions more vigorously than any other administration as the principal tools of its foreign policy. You might even call Trump’s stance in this regard “foreign policy by tariff threats.”

Trump’s disregard for international laws, institutions, alliances, and agreements is extremely worrisome. He possesses a truly generalized hatred for all rules that is mirrored in many ways, his management of the Trump Organization and his career as a real estate professional.

President Trump’s story has yet to play out on either the national or the international stage. His impeachment is already history. The 2020 presidential election is looming.

 

 

About Stuart Malawer

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