Japan Today



America first? Not so fast


Did U.S. President Donald Trump’s congressional speech set a new tone to his presidency? Many commentators have praised the much milder and considered rhetoric he took, finally cracking out from his harsh and contrarian persona. How reassuring is this for those who still believe and champion liberal democracies and globalization? Not very much in my view.

There is for sure an impossibility of the contrarian that Mr Trump will have to face: How far can one go in reversing the global order?

Reality might be much harder to mold in his vision than he is willing to admit.

Globalization certainly has its limits. The world has grown faster, but the costs of adjusting to a competitive global market have been underestimated, especially in rich countries. Income inequality has soared and what wealth that has been gained has been “distributed” unevenly. Yet raising protectionist barriers in the United States is not the best way to reassure and improve the welfare of those economically left behind. Imports will be more expensive and translate into more retail tax for consumers. If this tax targets the cheaper, low-quality products from emerging economies, such as China and Mexico, then it will especially harm low-income consumers – many of whom voted for Mr Trump.

Equally, it is not through moral suasion or fiscal threat that manufacturing activities returning to the United States will create the jobs lost in the recent “off-shoring" season. Companies moving their plants back will use highly automated production processes. Yes, they will create jobs, but in the medium to high range of the salary scale and not for the unskilled blue collars.

And so protectionism is not a zero sum game. It leads to a rapid and devolved tit-for-tat process of knee-jerk action and reaction. If the U.S. erects trade barriers, the same will happen with their products in its export markets. American companies will lose, or rather, be forced to produce directly in those markets where they wish to do business. Trump’s protectionist strategy might die down quite a bit; given it would be economically costly and because of its inability to achieve Trump’s ultimate goal to give back hope to the dispossessed.

Yet, this prediction might well be wishful thinking if ideology prevails over sound realism. “America first”, in my view is nothing else than revived nationalism. It’s the vision of “let’s make our country richer, even if our policies are costly for others.”

Globalization, instead, has been a hesitant, yet steady path, toward dialogue and integration, the spread of the values of liberal democracies and toward reciprocity: the principle that all countries, through integration and competition share a common space to grow together. The United States has always been in the driving seat of this process.

“America first” says that this process is no longer worth pursuing. This is very powerful rhetoric. Practically, it is a policy that will immeasurably change the underlying principles that have governed global economic policies for the past 70 years. Changing course implies moving toward uncharted waters. But if Trump’s rhetoric is strong enough however, “America first” will unfortunately keep on sailing through.

© The Mark News

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

America first ? Yeah, right ! With the Toddler-in-Chief, TRUMP WILL ALWAYS BE FIRST ! ! !

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Hey orange, do you know how Florida can produce so much of you, so cheap that everyone can eat an orange everyday and there are still left overs for exports ? It's because they can afford machines to help them, whose parts are made all over the world, including America, thanks to globalization and trade.

Now with your protectionism pet project, those machines will become more expensive to maintain because parts break, then oranges will become more expensive, and Americans and Japanese alike will buy less of your oranges. Your orange producers make less money, they use machines less often, replace parts less often, your parts producers make less money, they layoff some people, those people buy less orange, your orange producers make even less money, and so on, and so on.

Do you understand this elementary concept of economy ?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Makes sense. If America makes it harder for countries to sell there, they will make it harder for American companies to sell overseas. 40% of revenue of the S&P 500 is made overseas, think of the catastrophe that would occur in America if that was wiped..

3 ( +5 / -2 )

"Devoid of any real data to back up it's premise . . . . " Kinda like the Toddler-in-Chief's wire tapping charges against the former POTUS, huh ? But then again, he (The Toddler-in-Chief) is devoid of any sort of rational thought process !

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Good article. Agree with it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"How reassuring is this [Trumps Congressional speech] for those who still believe and champion liberal democracies and globalization? Not very much in my view."

As well is should not be.

Liberal democracies are the antithesis of what Trump and his ideologies stand for. That the writer views Trump as a direct threat to Liberalism justifies the votes of those that helped place Trump in office.

"Income inequality has soared and what wealth that has been gained has been “distributed” unevenly."____This begs the question that income equality is true and correct. In a Capitalistic society or world, why should those that are at the lower end of the food chain be compensated equally as those that are higher up?

Because it is fair? Who said this world is fair? By what right may we expect fairness?

Liberalism presupposes the values and ideals that Conservatism espouses, yet works to undermine the very values that it holds near and dear.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just another anti-Trump opinion piece devoid of any real data to back up its premise of 'globalization is good, nationalism is bad'. I'm pretty sure Trump cares more about USA's well being than the IMF does.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

"the spread of values of liberal democracies and toward reciprocity: the principle that all countries, through integration and competition share a common space to grow together"

This US has always been in the drivers seat of this process and it hasn't been fair reciprocity. Other countries have taken advantage of US generosity and not returned the favor. Liberal democracies have grown but not "together" with the US.

America first means fair trade and no more handouts to illegal immigrants. It means putting priority on fixing America's problems at home first. I agree with @karlrb and this is just another left wing liberal rant. Tried to give @karlrb a thumbs up but with no surprise it doesn't register on JT.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites