Trump Upends Global Trade Order Built by U.S.


Smaller countries like South Korea and Argentina have forged agreements with the United States in recent months. Last week, Brazil put into place the take-it-or-leave-it agreement the United States demanded to avoid Mr. Trump’s 25 percent steel tariffs by limiting exports of finished steel into the United States.

But the world’s major powers have so far responded to the president’s criticisms by toughening their resolve. Indeed, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said Sunday that Europe would enact countermeasures against the United States tariffs on steel and aluminum.

“When you go up and slap someone in the face, they’re not going to say, ‘Please sir, can I have another?’” said Philip Levy, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

At a news conference on Saturday, Mr. Trump said his ultimate goal was eliminating all trade duties and subsidies. But in his short tenure in office, he has scrapped potential agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Japan and Canada and a sweeping trade pact with Europe that would have slashed the tariffs he is now criticizing.

The United States has just one trade agreement with the countries of the G-7 — Nafta, which includes Canada. The remaining countries of the group have recently inked multiple deals among themselves that have left American exporters at a disadvantage in their markets.

In the last year, a trade agreement between Canada and the European Union went into force, and remaining countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership signed a trade pact, as did the European Union and Japan.

Mr. Trump’s advisers have criticized these as bad deals, and argued that his “America First” strategy did not mean “America alone.” But with the world’s other leading economies moving ahead with trade pacts and united against Mr. Trump’s trade approach, the United States certainly appears to be at odds with many of its former partners.

“The president’s principal objection to multilateralism seems to be that he doesn’t want other countries united against him,” said Mr. Levy. “Now, look at what he’s done.”


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