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Lose-Lose Trade Sanctions

Ruthless trade and financial sanctions against Russia may be morally satisfying for Western politicians and their constituents, but that doesn't mean they will be effective. In fact, the historical record suggests that such measures are often self-defeating and politically dangerous.

NEW HAVEN – One of the strongest arguments for free trade is that it promotes peace between participating countries. There is an undeniable correlation between the two, even if it is not always clear whether peace is a pre-condition for the free movement of goods and services, or whether commerce creates the economic incentives for all participants to maintain peace.

Back in 2016, as anti-China rhetoric in the United States grew increasingly shrill, one could not help but feel that we were on the verge of a new cold war. During Donald Trump’s presidency, the tensions boiled over into something unprecedented in recent history: the weaponization of trade during peacetime.

Recent research shows that the US-China trade war has had substantial economic costs. But the political costs may be even worse. International cooperation has broken down, multilateral institutions have been disempowered, and the world has entered an era of increasing polarization – both within and across countries. The best hopes for the future have seemed to lie in regional blocs and alliances, auguring a new, more fractured form of globalization.