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As G8 Meets, Free Trade Is in Retreat

Author: Joshua Kurlantzick, Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia
June 16, 2013


At the start of his second term in January, President Barack Obama announced a massive platform of new policy proposals. Since then, many of his ideas—on gun control, a solution to America's debt crisis, and other issues—have been abandoned, leaving the president's supporters on the left almost apoplectic. Yet even as he has backed off from fights on other issues, Obama and his administration have continued to push for many new trade deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which encompasses much of Asia, the fastest-growing region in the world. The White House also has proposed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a free trade deal with Europe.

As Obama and other leaders of the world's richest nations prepare to convene at the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland, a closer look at the U.S.'s trade agenda reveals that the administration's rhetoric is more smoke and mirrors than serious policy. Even if the TPP or the Europe deal were viable initiatives, they will almost surely never pass Congress, which took five years to approve free trade deals with such minnows as Panama and Colombia. On a broader scale, global trade and economic integration are in crisis. Banks are retreating from international deals. The World Trade Organization's Doha Round is dead. Leading nations like France, China, and Brazil are throwing up new types of protectionism, and a new era of deglobalization—the opposite of global economic integration—has arrived.

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The G-20 London Summit

Speakers: Richard Clarida and Benn Steil
Presider: Merit E. Janow

The following is a transcription from a Council on Foreign Relations meeting on the Group of 20 (G-20).