Independence vs. Interdependence: A False Dichotomy

Image result for trade wars political cartoon

In the past Donald Trump has declared that if elected he would “rip up” all existing free trade agreements the United States has with other countries, with particular focus on NAFTA and the TPP. While this is impossible due to a variety of legal constraints and would also be catastrophic for the U.S. economy, this is not the most troubling aspect of Trump’s proposed action. Ripping up all existing U.S. free trade agreements (which there are the U.S. has in force with 20 countries) would severely threaten the security of the United States.

Donald Trump has declared that existing free trade agreements are bad for American workers, bad for the U.S. economy and bad for U.S. independence. As he describes, the U.S. is engaged is trade wars with foreign countries, wars which the U.S. is losing. The trade deficit is out of control. His economic vision will once again put the U.S. on top.

Donald Trump’s vision for U.S. foreign policy and national defense is to achieve “peace through strength”. By strengthening America at home he will be able to more readily and forcefully “advance America’s core national interests, promote regional stability, and produce an easing of tensions in the world”. Furthermore, Trump wants to strengthen the United States military via increasing their size and technologically capabilities.

The problem, however, is that free trade agreements increase national security. Research demonstrates that “nontrade issues such as human rights, democracy, environment, corruption, and labor standards are increasingly linked” to free trade agreements, especially preferential trade agreements, of which the United States is party to many. Ripping up trade agreements will harm U.S. diplomatic relationships and make it much more difficult to influence these non-trade issues. Additionally, the United States manages its hierarchical relationships, and thereby influence, via contracts, such as trade agreements. It has also been empirically proven that a loss of entrenchment in a foreign country via loss of influence denotes an inability to manage the economic and security processes in those countries.

In other words, Donald Trump’s economic vision is at odds with his foreign policy and national defense vision. Withdrawing from existing agreements means a decline in diplomatic relations. A decline in diplomatic relations decreases influence. A decrease in influence connotes an inability to effect the economic and defense policies of foreign countries. Not being able to effect these processes means the United States may be unable to regain any economic and military power lost as a result of the withdrawals. As a result, the United States is worse off economically and less secure than it was previously.

Not to mention that any loss of wealth makes it more difficult to spend more of the U.S. budget on the military without significantly increasing the trade deficit.

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