El-Erian102_MIKE SARGENT_AFP_Getty Images MIKE SARGENT/AFP/Getty Images

A “Reagan Moment” for International Trade?

In the 1980s, US President Ronald Reagan initiated a military spending race with the Soviet Union that ended up altering the global balance of power in ways that affected many countries worldwide. Could Donald Trump's tariff race with China lead to a similar outcome?

NEW YORK – The latest round of tit-for-tat tariffs by the United States and China has intensified the ongoing global debate about whether the world is facing a mere trade skirmish or heading rapidly toward a full-blown trade war. But what is really at stake may be even more fundamental. Either accidentally or by design, US President Donald Trump’s administration may have paved the way for a “Reagan moment” for the international trade regime.

In the 1980s, US President Ronald Reagan initiated a military spending race with the Soviet Union that ended up altering the global balance of power in ways that affected many countries worldwide. Today, Trump has launched a tariff race with China, an economic superpower, perhaps with similarly far-reaching potential consequences. Like under Reagan, the US is better placed to win the current competition with China – but the risks are sizable.

In the latest escalation of the trade dispute, the US imposed levies on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports. China immediately implemented retaliatory tariffs, spurring the US to threaten even more protectionist measures. These actions exacerbate tensions over the Trump administration’s imposition of tariffs on imports from other countries, including some of America’s closest allies (such as Canada), and its threats to withdraw from the World Trade Organization, which undergirds the rules-based system regulating cross-border flows of goods, services, and capital.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

http://prosyn.org/SBPdue0;
  1. haass102_ATTAKENAREAFPGettyImages_iranianleaderimagebehindmissiles Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

    Taking on Tehran

    Richard N. Haass

    Forty years after the revolution that ousted the Shah, Iran’s unique political-religious system and government appears strong enough to withstand US pressure and to ride out the country's current economic difficulties. So how should the US minimize the risks to the region posed by the regime?

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.