In his inaugural address, U.S. President Donald Trump pledged that economic nationalism would be the hallmark of his trade policy. “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs,” he said. Within days, he withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), announced that he would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and threatened to impose a special tax on U.S. companies that move their factories abroad.
Although Trump’s professed goal is to “get a better deal” on trade, his brand of economic nationalism is just one step away from old-fashioned protectionism. The president claimed that “protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.” Yet the opposite is true. An “America first” trade policy would do nothing to create new manufacturing jobs or narrow the trade deficit, the gap between imports and exports. Instead, it risks triggering a global trade war that would prove damaging to all countries. A slide toward protectionism would also undermine the institutions that the United States has long worked to support, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), which have made meaningful contributions to global peace and
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