Return to protectionist past no answer
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.