The rise of US protectionism comes from more than growing economic anxieties. I believe it is facilitated by a fallacious belief about America’s current role in the world.
For over 70 years since World War II, we have been the dominant nation in the free world or the dominant nation in the world, period. In international affairs and in international trade, our dominance came from engagement. Engagement in resolving foreign problems and in trade deals that opened up and invigorated markets for American goods and services.
The current American demagogic movements that reject free trade and the expenditure of American resources to enact a free world would diminish our stature and our influence to effect our vision and our interests. Our leaders have not explained this well nor have they (both Republicans and Democrats) implemented transitions that are acceptable for dislocated American workers. The latter being the linchpin of our failures here.
Many Americans are nostalgic about America’s influence and the strength of our economy in past decades. Yet, circumstances change and we must adapt if we wish to maintain and grow our stature, our economic competitiveness and our way and quality of life.
Since World War II, America has worked to rebuild countries devastated in the war, encourage democracy across the global and encourage international policies that promote self-sufficient nations. We did the right thing and have been successful in many areas.
But that also means countries that become increasingly less beholden to us and whose populations increasingly stand for their interests and positions not necessarily aligned with ours.
Our heritage is stellar, but we get little out of it if we rest on our laurels. Our influence, stature and the economic prosperity which provide our optimal quality of life – to maintain it, we must continually engage with other nations and earn it.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, there are options to the Trans Pacific Partnership. If not the TPP, we need to implement other free trade options. Otherwise, China could become the center of economic power in the Asia/Pacific and the nations there will gravitate towards her for closer partnerships and relationships. Shocked that Democratic nations would work with the Red Menace. Negotiations already have begun.
If we are not in the game, others will take our place. We cannot set ourselves aside and expect to dominate or win.