US presidential candidate Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Long Reads

Trump’s Trade Disaster

In the second year of his presidency, Donald Trump has doubled down on his “America First” brand of economic nationalism, by making impossible demands of US allies and escalating a multi-front trade war of his own making. In doing so, however, he has all but guaranteed that Americans themselves will bear the costs.

WASHINGTON, DC – US President Donald Trump may fancy himself a builder, but when it comes to international treaties and norms, he has proved to be a one-man wrecking crew. And now, the chaos appears to be spreading and deepening.

In the last few months alone, Trump’s “America First” administration announced commercial sanctions against the Chinese tech giant ZTE, but then reconsidered that decision, in the interest of – wait for it – saving Chinese jobs. And just weeks after Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin put a trade war with China “on hold,” the administration declared that it would impose tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports after all, while also slapping sweeping import tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Of course, even if Trump’s advisers have sent mixed messages on trade, it may be the only issue on which Trump himself has remained consistent, much to the detriment of US alliances and economic relations. Almost immediately upon taking office, Trump mothballed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP would not just have united the US and 11 other Pacific Rim countries within a single trade bloc; it also would have established region-wide rules and standards that even China might have been forced to follow, despite its exclusion.

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