It’s not a new message here at home, but it must have sounded surprising to have it delivered to a roomful of, well, globalists. In his address to the United Nations General Assembly this morning, Donald Trump warned that the era of globalists has failed, and that “the future belongs to patriots.” Trump warned that the best way to achieve peace is to have each nation keep to its own affairs and respect their neighbors, a slap across the face to the UN:
Trump at U.N.: "Wise leaders always put the good of their own people and their own country first. The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots." https://t.co/LOlwhKc8Ve pic.twitter.com/gcFlZyjQLM
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 24, 2019
To support his claim of the failure of globalism, Trump made China his Exhibit A. Nearly twenty years ago, the rest of the world convinced the US to admit China to the World Trade Organization and grant them favorable bilateral terms in order to incentivize moderation and liberty. How has that worked out, Trump asked — and then provided the answer. From now on, the US will look toward bilateral agreements that protect our own interests, unless some major reforms take place tout suite:
Pres. Trump: "In 2001, China was admitted to the World Trade Organization. Our leaders then argued this decision would compel China to liberalize their economy and strengthen their protections.
— ABC News (@ABC) September 24, 2019
President Donald Trump is slamming the World Trade Organization for allowing China to get preferential treatment despite the size of its economy. Trump says that the institution is in need of major reform and that the U.S. will demand those changes.
Trump told world leaders at the annual U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday that he will no longer allow other countries to take advantage of America and the international trade system.
Trump has long complained that China is classified as a developing nation by the World Trade Organization even though it is the world’s second-largest economy.
Trump also says his administration will conclude new trade deals with Britain, Japan and others that are fair and reciprocal. The Republican president says a deal with Japan is close to being finalized and once Britain leaves the European Union the U.S. will negotiate an “exceptional deal” with it.
Soooo … we probably shouldn’t expect big breakthroughs next month in the US-China trade talks, then? It’s tough to argue with Trump’s conclusions about China and the success of engagement with the Chinese communists. China wants to keep using the WTO as the venue for US trade complaints thanks to that engagement, although by now they know that Trump won’t agree to that and insists on an enforceable bilateral agreement. If the US gets the reforms it wants at the WTO, then even that fig leaf will be removed. Changing China’s ridiculous official status from “developing” to “developed” will require it to comply with many more regulations, including environmental restrictions that shackle other WTO members.
That’s more the trees, though, rather than the forest. Trump’s speech declares a sea change in the international diplomatic system that emerged from the destruction of World War II. The consensus after two massive global conflicts was that a closely structured international order would prevent a third world war, and that multilateral trade organizations would spread wealth and liberalize nations. Those assumptions produced a mixed track record, but the catalyst for backlash might be more related to the growth of these voluntary multilateral organizations into supernational governments that intrude on sovereignty, overriding subsidiarity even on a national level.
Rejecting the latter makes some sense, even if the exit ramps from them might not be well designed in some cases (especially Brexit, where they’ve barely been considered). Is it wise to throw out the baby with the bath water in terms of security arrangements and multilateral alliances? Trump didn’t actually make an explicit call for that, but his attack on “globalists” didn’t offer a lot of hints as to the potential for a modest retrenchment back to the original post-WWII models either.
For most of his speech, Trump’s tone was restrained, perhaps to contrast to his sharp message of rejecting the globalist direction. It won’t be seen as one of his best-delivered speeches, but it could be his most momentous.
Note: I’ll have more on Trump’s remarks on illegal immigration, which rate a separate thread.