At the G20 summit held this year in Buenos Aires, Argentina, US President Donald Trump racked up yet another first. He was the only major world leader to indicate that he didn’t believe in climate change and would do nothing to combat it.
That’s right. When the Group of 20 signed a joint statement closing the summit last Sunday, a major issue was a renewed commitment to actively combatting global climate change in accordance with the Paris Accord, but final approval was not unanimous. Only 19 of the 20 major economies committed once more to fighting climate change. The only hold-out...You guessed it.
The US also flatly objected to use of the word “protectionism” in the final draft of the agreement in the section covering flaws in the current world trading system. Resistance from Washington was so great that the word ended up being censored from the final text.
But this was also consistent with the Trump administration’s policies, since if the international trade system has gone from being flawed to heading for a complete breakdown, the shift can only be attributed to the US president, who has levied tariffs on friends and rivals alike, sparking a major trade war with China that has thrown the international economy into a tizzy and prompted worldwide confusion and trade insecurity.
Protectionism is precisely what Trump is attempting to engage in (though he refuses to call it that). But he has failed to realize that the global economy is now so interconnected that it is impossible to impose protectionist tariffs against another major world trading power like China, or such a close trading partner as Canada, without shooting yourself in the proverbial foot. The best example? The closure of five General Motors plants in the US because tariffs imposed on imported parts have made it cheaper for the auto giant to produce cars elsewhere.
Delegates from other countries attending the G20 meeting would later reveal that negotiations had been grueling and that the US had been the lone hold-out on nearly every issue included (and not included) in the final agreement. The Trump administration has been openly critical of the World Trade Organization, which is at odds with Trump’s America First (America Alone) policy that has his administration implementing unprecedentedly aggressive trade policies targeting not only China but also US allies in European Union and elsewhere.