Trump’s approach to China could have dangerous implications for global trade and world peace

Who will blink first? Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Last week President Donald Trump seemed to be on the cusp of a trade deal with China. A couple of threatening tweets later, the odds of ending the 16-month-old U.S.-China trade war have dropped dramatically.

Whether or not American and Chinese trade negotiators ultimately salvage a deal – the U.S. says China backpedaled on a commitment and intends to raise tariffs within days – the episode highlights drawbacks in Trump’s trade strategy, which tends to be protectionist, confrontational and negotiated one on one.

Unfortunately, Trump’s policies are only an acceleration of a trend in international trade that’s been going on for several decades. It’s a move away from multilateralism – in which many countries agree on certain trading principles – and toward bilateralism – which pits nation against nation, raising the stakes.

I am a specialist in the politics of trade. My observations lead me to believe that the increasing abandonment of multilateralism will have pernicious long-term consequences. Not only will trade become more costly for businesses and consumers, it may even make the planet a more dangerous place…

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