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Trump and World Trade

8/2/2017

In anticipating the near future of world trade, and aside from reality, basic rationalism could find some positivity in the presidency of Donald Trump. Why not, he is a business tycoon who could possess the keys to rescuing the plunging markets and economies. Moreover, he personally owns businesses in numerous countries around the globe. So, propelling global economy might be in his personal interest!.

 

Reality, however, hits hard. His exclusionary tone was also sound in his speech on global economy during his campaign. He just wanted to restrict the entry of foreign objects to the US, humans and products!.

 

In an interview with “Meet the Press” on NBC, back in July 2016, he said “The World Trade Organization is a disaster”. He also added that he would pull the US out if his restrective measures were found to violate the WTO rules, and further threatened to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TTP).

 

Yesterday, the news carried reports on Trump’s intention to withdraw from the TTP agreement his first day at office! So it might get real after all. The valuable question remains here, is there any room for optimism if he adheres to his “beliefs” on global economy? I believe so, but in a different part of the world, in developing countries with small economies and markets, like my country Jordan, and also in least developed countries.

 

The fact that the WTO does not recognize geographical imbalances between the different countries in terms of production capabilities and natural-resources, while committing them to remove technical and customs barriers on the entry of imported products into their markets, has created, in many cases, imbalances in competitiveness between industries across the world, as imported products may enter, to any given market, at prices below the prices of the locally produced. This has lead, by time, to the elimination of many local factories and companies from the markets in many developing and least developed countries.

 

It is true that the WTO sets rules on preferential treatment for developing countries, but such rules have empirically been proved superficial and inapplicable in many areas, leaving the upper hand to the powerful and capable developed countries, and a number of “capable” developing countries.

 

As a consequence, the WTO has created a state of gradual industrial extinction in many developing countries, hence enlarging the deficits in the balance of payments, and increasing unemployment rates. Therefore, the withdrawal of the US would constitute an opportunity for developing countries to deal less seriously with the WTO and free trade rules, in following the US steps.

 

As for the US, it is difficult to see advantages. Restricting international trade, in a huge market like the US market, would restrict competition, thus increasing inflation rates. Also, US exports might be vulnerable to retaliation in world’s markets, a scene US industries do not want to encounter.

 

Sadly, when it comes to world trade, optimism in developed countries would mean pessimism in developing countries and contrariwise. Maybe we need a fairer trading system that would really help all economies elevate to one equal level.

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