Globalization, Revising the Terms of Trade, and the Return of 'History'
14 Ohio State Business Law Journal (Forthcoming)
48 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2019 Last revised: 22 Jun 2020
Date Written: September 6, 2019
For decades, American political leaders, commentators, and scholars have complained about unfair trading practices in the global economy and talked about the need to address the United States’ chronic trade deficits. But when the Trump administration aggressively sought to renegotiate the terms of international trade, the response of the policy establishment was a sort of panic at the disco, combining an almost visceral reaction against Trump’s efforts with a relentless, often simplistic defense of the post-1947 trading system.
This Article criticizes both news organizations and expert commentators for this simplistic defense of international trade, but concludes that we will never know whether the Trump team could have achieved a genuine re-evaluation of the global trade regime because the focus has now turned to China. The Article then explores the trade dispute between the Trump Administration and China, first as an economic matter and then as part of a larger geo-political struggle. In this arena, the Trump Administration has succeeded in changing the terms of the debate: there is now less effort by establishment voices to discuss trade with China as purely about business and there is greater acceptance that trade occurs in the midst of geopolitical and ideological competition. “History,” as Francis Fukuyama conceived it, is back – or never went away. While the Trump team initially wanted to put geopolitics aside to force better trade deals, it is precisely awareness of the geopolitics that is forcing serious reassessment of the China-U.S. economic relationship. Long-term changes are likely, changes for which the business community needs to start planning more comprehensively.
Keywords: international trade; Trump; news organizations; media; China; geopolitics
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