Re­turn to pro­tec­tion­ist past no an­swer

China Daily European Weekly - - Comment - Har­vey Mor­ris

Crit­ics of Trump tar­iffs, in­clud­ing one­time ri­vals, are united in op­po­si­tion to US trade of­fen­sive

His­tory teaches that those who de­clare wars on mul­ti­ple fronts are of­ten the ones who lose them. The tar­gets have a habit of sink­ing their dif­fer­ences in or­der to over­come the com­mon threat.

Thus it may turn out to be with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s “Amer­ica First” trade war, a mul­ti­front of­fen­sive that has put even its clos­est al­lies, such as Canada, in the fir­ing line. Canada? There is no coun­try in the world more wed­ded to main­tain­ing an in­ti­mate and trust­ing re­la­tion­ship with its gi­ant neigh­bor to the south.

So Cana­di­ans were shocked when Trump slapped pun­ish­ing tar­iffs on their steel and alu­minum in­dus­tries out of al­leged “na­tional se­cu­rity” con­cerns.

And what about In­dia, with which Wash­ing­ton has his­tor­i­cally cul­ti­vated a strate­gic part­ner­ship in Asia and which now faces sim­i­lar bar­ri­ers on its ex­ports to the United States?

To say noth­ing of Europe, the US part­ner in a trans-At­lantic re­la­tion­ship that dom­i­nated the sec­ond half of the 20th cen­tury and just about sur­vives through joint par­tic­i­pa­tion in the NATO de­fense al­liance.

And that is with­out men­tion­ing China, whose ex­ports brought lower prices to US con­sumers and which is now an in­creas­ingly valu­able mar­ket for US goods and ser­vices.

All these friends and part­ners of the US, de­spite their in­evitable ge­o­graphic and ide­o­log­i­cal sep­a­ra­tion, are now united in a firm be­lief that Trump will not only shoot his own coun­try in the foot, but also set the scene to re­place the “win-win” phi­los­o­phy of glob­al­iza­tion with the “lose-lose” al­ter­na­tive of pro­tec­tion­ism and iso­la­tion­ism.

War makes strange bedfellows. And none more so than in the case of the part­ners of the US in the Western-dom­i­nated G7 and the BRICS group of emerg­ing economies, in­clud­ing China, that were once seen as ri­vals in de­ter­min­ing the pa­ram­e­ters of world growth and global trade.

Wash­ing­ton’s G7 part­ners and the BRICS mem­bers are sud­denly singing from the same song sheet to de­nounce the new wave of pro­tec­tion­ism em­a­nat­ing from the White House.

Desperate times re­quire desperate mea­sures. And all the tar­gets of Trump’s trade war are tak­ing re­tal­ia­tory mea­sures to try to head off the im­pact of the White House of­fen­sive.

The Euro­pean Union, for ex­am­ple, re­sponded to new US tar­iffs by im­pos­ing 25 per­cent taxes on US prod­ucts that ranged from whiskey to pri­vate yachts.

Canada — yes! Canada again — stepped up with $16.6 bil­lion (14 bil­lion eu­ros; £12.6 bil­lion) in tar­iffs on US prod­ucts rang­ing from steel and alu­minum to maple syrup and or­ange juice.

What is also emerg­ing, how­ever, is a more co­or­di­nated re­sponse to the Trump of­fen­sive.

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