The cross-border movement of goods, services, and capital increased markedly for the thirty years up to the Great Financial Crisis. Although the recovery has given way to a new economic expansion in the major economies, global trade and capital flows remain well below pre-crisis levels. It gives a sense globalization is ending.
The election of Donald Trump as the 45th US President has underscored these fears. His first few weeks in office clearly mark a new era not just for America, but given its central role in late-20th-century globalization, for the world as well. Trump is a bit of a Rorschach test. He did not win a plurality, let alone a majority of the popular vote, but that does not stop pundits from claiming that Trump won because of this or that issue.
There are some campaign promises which Trump has backed away such as citing China as a currency manipulator on his first day as President or pursuing legal charges against Hillary Clinton. His priorities have been repealing the national health insurance, formally withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and signaled an intention to re-open the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump and his closest advisers seem intent to unwind not just his predecessor’s initiatives, but the general thrust of America’s grand strategy since the end of WWII. His rhetoric of America First harkens back to Warren Harding, who succeeded Woodrow Wilson after the US Senate rejected the League of Nations. Some historians refer to that period as ‘isolationism, ’ but in practice it was unilateralist.
“It’s a great thing for the American worker, what we just did,” Trump said on Monday after signing an order withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord with 11 other nations. He didn’t sign any actions to direct a renegotiation of the Nafta accord with Mexico and Canada, yet he said on Sunday he would begin talks with the two leaders on modifying the accord, BBG reported. “We’ve been talking about this a long time,” Trump said.
Trump’s trade focus fulfills a campaign promise to rewrite America’s trade policy during his first days as president. In declaring his determination to renegotiate Nafta, Trump would rework an agreement that has governed commerce in much of the Western hemisphere for 22 years. By scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord negotiated by former President Barack Obama, Trump will delight many of his most fervent supporters as well as a good many Democrats, while opening an economic vacuum in Asia that China is eager to fill.
Trump campaigned against the TPP and other trade deals, including Nafta, during his campaign for the White House. In a video released in November, Trump promised to exit TPP “on day one,” calling it “a potential disaster for our country.”
A reversal in U.S. trade policy could make 2017 the year that efforts to build multinational trade zones crumble, returning the focus to tough, bilateral dealmaking.
In October 2015, officials from 12 nations including the U.S. and Japan gathered in the American city of Atlanta to ink the historic Trans-Pacific Partnership, confident of the dawning of a new age of trade governed by such high-level, multilateral agreements. Yet that dream lies all but dead just over a year later, not least due to Donald Trump’s presidential victory and his pledge to pull the U.S. from the agreement upon taking office Jan. 20.
Many bilateral free trade agreements, which reduce or abolish tariffs and set rules for trade in goods and services between two nations, have been struck over the years. Multilateral agreements extend this notion to the regional level and improve security in the areas they cover, further greasing the wheels of commerce.
Yet Trump prefers his trade pacts one on one — the better to drive hard bargains, leveraging U.S. economic and diplomatic might to secure the most advantageous terms. Multilateral pacts involve far more careful compromise and require each nation to give and take small concessions rather than pushing for an unambiguous win.
If anyone needed the proper epitaph for the insane stupidity out of Europe, Reuters may have just provided it. In an exclusive article, Reuters stuns us with the following: “German and French officials have discussed plans for a radical overhaul of the European Union that would involve establishing a more integrated and potentially smaller euro zone, EU sources say. French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave some flavour of his thinking during an address to students in the eastern French city of Strasbourg on Tuesday, when he said a two-speed Europe — the euro zone moving ahead more rapidly than all 27 countries in the EU — was the only model for the future.” It gets much worse: “The discussions among senior policymakers in Paris, Berlin and Brussels go further, raising the possibility of one or more countries leaving the euro zone, while the remaining core pushes on towards deeper economic integration, including on tax and fiscal policy.” Not sure how to further clarify this: Europe is preparing for its own end, and the dissolution of the existing structure of the Eurozone, which likely means an end to the EU in its current format, a reshaping of the customs union, and the overhaul of the zEURq.PK in its current form. Ironically, this may end up being favorable for the Euro… and detrimental for Germany. So the question is: will Germany go for it? At this point, it probably has no choice, unless it wants a mutiny on its hands.
More from Reuters on this shocker:
A senior EU official said changing the make-up of the euro zone has been discussed on an “intellectual” level but had not moved to operational or technical discussions, while a French government source said there was no such project in the works.
Such steps are also opposed by many EU countries, whose backing would be needed for any adjustments to the bloc’s treaties, making them anything but a done deal.
“This will unravel everything our forebears have painstakingly built up and repudiate all that they stood for in the past sixty years,” one EU diplomat told Reuters. “This is not about a two-speed Europe, we already have that. This will redraw the map geopolitically and give rise to new tensions. It could truly be the end of Europe as we know it.”
Nonetheless, the Franco-German motor has generally been the driving force in steps forward for European integration.
To an extent the taboo on a country leaving the 17-member currency bloc was already broken at the G20 summit in Cannes last week, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Sarkozy both effectively said that Greece might have to drop out if the euro zone’s long-term stability was to be maintained. Read More