Perusing the coverage of President Donald J. Trump’s first ten months in office, a reader could easily conclude that the global trading system, which has been in existence essentially since 1945, is on the verge of collapse. Trump himself frequently talks about trade in a way that sounds more like mercantilist princes of the sixteenth century, or the economist nationalists of the 1930s, than all the post–World War II presidents of the United States.
The post–World War II multilateral trading system may not yet go the way of the dodo. In fact, multilateral trade deals could happen and are still happening—just, in many cases without the United States at their center. And ultimately, the fact that the world will continue trading—lowering trade barriers, making new multilateral deals, and witnessing corporate expansion plans predicated on growing trade—will force Washington to abandon its most strident plans. And if it doesn’t, not only Japan but also China will step into the trade void.
For more on how multilateral trade deals will survive in Asia, see my new piece for Aspenia Online.