Economic Affairs

As US retreats from free trade, the EU and others speed ahead

The Trump administration's protectionist policies may hurt America more than its trade partners

It might seem an odd, counter-intuitive question to ask. But could the Trump administration's aggressively protectionist policies actually accelerate the movement towards free trade elsewhere - which then maybe even leads to its re-embrace by the United States?

To recap the sordid recent history of trade, the Trump administration has erected import tariffs on steel and aluminium, including on the US' largest trading partners such as the European Union, China, Canada and Mexico. It has also imposed tariffs on (so far) US$34 billion (S$46.4 billion) worth of Chinese imports and threatens to do more. It has also threatened tariffs on imports of cars and car-parts from the EU. On July 15, US President Donald Trump labelled the EU and China as "trade foes". More recently, he has accused the two of manipulating their currencies.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2018, with the headline 'As US retreats from free trade, the EU and others speed ahead'. Print Edition | Subscribe