After a year in which US President Donald Trump did not follow through on his promised protectionism, he has finally done so. It is quickly becoming clear that Trump's attacks on free trade are not just about global commerce, but about the entire rules-based international system.
BERLIN – US President Donald Trump is getting serious about translating his contempt for the international system into concrete policies. His decision to impose $50 billion in punitive import tariffs on many Chinese goods could severely disrupt global trade. And while he made a last-minute decision to exempt EU goods from such tariffs, Europe may yet end up in the line of fire.
Trump’s “America First” approach will not, it is now clear, leave the rules-based international order unscathed. The United States developed the post-war order, and has enforced its rules for decades. But that is no longer the case. Indeed, Trump’s recent actions are not just about trade, but about America’s departure from Pax Americana itself.
Few countries are more connected to the post-war order than Germany, which, like Japan, owes its economic resurgence after 1945 to the rules-based trading system. Germany’s economy relies heavily on exports, which means that it is acutely vulnerable to trade barriers and punitive tariffs imposed by major trading partners.