Reflections on a Trade War

The current “trade war” that the U.S. appears to be launching is, fortunately, still at the level of frontier skirmishes. The theaters of war are being explored and the resolve of the enemy is being tested. With any luck, this will be mostly theater and little war. However, one cannot help but believe that a little bit of war could be a good thing, for a few very important reasons. It is these reasons that we shall explore over the next few weeks in this blog.

First, recognizing the wisdom in Colin Powell’s warning that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, it is still wise to at least plan for battle. More specifically international trade is always a form of ongoing, simmering warfare. The economics of trade is an optimistic, entirely positive-sum story: cooperation, collaboration, expanding commerce, escalating opportunities, partnering for innovation, and creating mutual prospects for growth. The politics of trade, however, is always a form of warfare.

A bit of history will help set the stage. From the time of Marco Polo Continue reading “Reflections on a Trade War”

Elegy for the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Elegy for the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Robert A. Rogowsky
Professor of Trade & Diplomacy
Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, CA

It has been more than a year since President Trump pulled the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the result of nearly a decade of negotiations with 11 other countries, including three of our largest trading partners, two South American trade partners and six more in Southeast Asia. The jilted trading partners have found their way back to a new TPP-11, which will undoubtedly open new opportunities for their industries and consumers, much at the expense of their U.S. counterparts.

The TPP was the new gold standard in trade agreements, to be surpassed in the future to be sure, but for now a major step forward in the hard task of negotiating rules for the rapidly evolving global marketplace, increasingly dominated by complex supply chains. It was the latest version of a long evolutionary process begun by Ronald Reagan when he proposed the expanded and visionary trade agenda to the GATT in 1982. Hard fought negotiations to open a new Round of negotiations in 1986 led to the Uruguay Round Agreement in 1994 creation of the WTO and expanded the trade agenda from manufacturing tariffs to begin to incorporate the global nature of business into rules defining a new level of governance for international commerce. Continue reading “Elegy for the Trans-Pacific Partnership”