US protectionism for a while

As Doha dies and economic pressures rise, there has been more commentary of trade and investment protectionism, particularly among US presidential candidates. The outlook is not good as this insightful comment from a global trade forum indicates:

Bottom line: there are really only two things you can expect, on the whole, from the US on trade, and they are:

1) Consolidation period of gains made thru bilateral/regional deals

2) Retrenchment on any forward-leaning policies, unless (and this is an “if and only if” conditionality) a mega deal like US-EU or US-Japan gets brokered principally on its foreign policy merits rather than sold as a commercial deal

I imagine that this kind of analysis will stimulate much meaty criticism of the US and how it can’t abandon free trade. Well, bitching about the real impact of the politics of globalization won’t change the playing field. USTR can’t point to a single WTO partner (maybe Canberra) and say to Congress, with credibility, that “they’re really with us on clinching a Doha deal”. Brussels, Tokyo, Delhi, Brasilia, et al, can look forward to reaping what they’ve sown. There are many politicos in those capitals who’ve reaped the short-term benefits of beating up Washington on trade, but they made that decision at a price – that they’ve now missed the window on Doha for the next couple of years. It is simply going to take a political cycle for Washington to come back to the point where liberal trade is embraced, by the majority, as a lynchpin of long-term security, and that is certainly not entirely due to internal, domestic developments.

More from US: Yale Global – Globalization Was Good Then, Not Now

More from Europe: The Economist – The China Trade Syndrome

The irony is that the US and Europe are benefiting tremendously from trade with China.  US companies might try to keep a lower profile, than European ones,  as they are more fearful of  a backlash from labour rights, anti-globalisation, or simply anti-China groups – it is politically incorrect to say that China is good for the US economy.


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