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.
Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president could upend efforts to fight climate change and shift the global landscape for commerce, if he steers the country away from globalization and free trade.
As the Republican’s victory grew apparent Wednesday morning, the mood at the COP 22 United Nations climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco, turned subdued. Trump has repeatedly voiced his skepticism about the science behind climate change. Research and advocacy groups now worry about the future of the deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions inked in Paris last year.
Though Trump will wield much power as president, even he does not have the power “to stop the impacts of climate change,” said Alden Meyer, strategy and policy director for the Union of Concerned Scientists. A Chinese environmentalist group said the country would continue increasing efforts to combat climate change.
The Paris agreement aims to limit the average rise in global temperatures over preindustrial levels to less than 2 C. Enacting the pact was a high priority for President Barack Obama, whose cooperation with China helped bring the agreement into force Friday, less than a year after it was adopted.