Post WWII, the United States led the world in creating a liberal democratic world order that facilitated democratic ideals and free trade. As leaders of an economic and military hegemon, Presidents of the United States chose to create a world order that strengthened US alliances through multi-lateral institutions, including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NATO). As the US’s global dominance has decreased in recent years, the US needs to to double-down on alliances and strengthen multi-lateral institutions to create an “Us vs. Them” rather than a “Me vs. Them” mentality. As Georgetown Law Professor Jennifer Hillman articulates in her New York Times OpEd, “How to Make the Trade War Even Worse,” President Trump not only hurt the US economy by starting the trade war with China, but in December of 2018 “blocked the nomination of new judges to the World Trade Organization’s appellate body, a move that could make it impossible for the United States to enforce whatever wins it scores against China.”
The World Trade Organization (WTO), the continuation of GATT, has a dispute mechanism that attempts to hold nations accountable for illegal trade practices, such as China’s recent persistent theft of intellectual property. As Professor Hillman describes, despite being on the merge of major victories at the WTO for American farmers, the United States continues to pull out of the WTO and make progress even more difficult. President Trump desperately needs votes from US Steel workers and thus use rhetoric to suggest the trade war will help them and hold China accountable. Sure enough, the price of steel is up 40% this year and his helping those workers. Meanwhile this price surge has badly damaged any industry in the US, to include automobile, that uses steel, and the trade war has nearly destroyed the US soybean market and forced the government to attempt to save the industry through subsidizing. At a time when US economic and military hegemony is in question, the US needs to once again strengthen the WTO and other multi-lateral institutions, not attempt to destroy them.