Economic Affairs

Trump's protectionism: Method to the madness?

President Donald Trump's surge towards US protectionism is threatening a global war and disrupting the international trading system. What is the real issue behind his seemingly reckless policies?

What are the motivations behind the current flurry of US trade policy actions - the tariffs announced on imports of solar products, washing machines, steel and aluminium, and the imminent actions expected against China for "intellectual property theft"?

Motivations matter because they indicate what outcomes are desired and thus whether particular policies are likely to be sustained, enhanced or withdrawn.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2018, with the headline 'Trump's protectionism: Method to the madness?'. Print Edition | Subscribe