Analysis & Opinions - Project Syndicate

Trump’s Transactional Myopia

| Feb. 04, 2020

US President Donald Trump's attacks on unfair Chinese trade and technology policies may have been justified, but his tactics have damaged the alliances and institutions on which the United States depends. Will the short-term gains outweigh the long-term institutional costs?

Trump's defenders claim that his aggressive unilateral approach broke the inertia in the international trade regime and prevented other countries from diluting US power. But Trump's transactional diplomacy is very different from the institutional vision of foreign policy that former US Secretary of State George Shultz once described as patient "gardening."

Ever since World War II, American presidents have tended to support international institutions and sought their extension, whether it be the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty under Lyndon B. Johnson; arms-control agreements under Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter; the Rio agreement on climate change under George H. W. Bush; the World Trade Organization and the Missile Technology Control Regime under Bill Clinton; or the Paris climate agreement under Barack Obama.

It was not until Trump that a US administration became broadly critical of multilateral institutions as a matter of policy....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Nye, Joseph S. Jr.“Trump’s Transactional Myopia.” Project Syndicate, February 4, 2020.