FDR must be turning in his grave at Trump's intransigent foreign and trade policy
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On 26 April, in a fiery speech at the annual meeting of the National Rifle association, President Donald Trump announced the United States' intention to withdraw as a signatory of the Arms Trade Treaty regulating conventional weapons, a key multilateral instrument to strengthen responsibility and transparency in the international arms trade (and illicit trade).

An instrument designed to reduce arms trade, but also corruption, terrorism and massacre everywhere, for the sole benefit of a market that profits very few.


This was the last in a series of blows to the international world order. Last year, it was the turn of the Paris climate agreement, intended to lay a path to long-term transition of the world’s economies toward “deep decarbonization”— sustaining economic growth while delinking it from emissions of CO2 and other GHGs.

Also in 2018, the U.S. withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the so-called “Iran Deal,” signed after a very long and difficult negotiation. The withdrawal, accompanied by new and strong sanctions, is putting the Iran economy under new and very severe pressure, reopening war scenarios in the area.

Then came Trump's notice to pull out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, raising concerns about the return of Cold War-style tensions over U.S. and Russian deployments of intermediate-range missiles in Europe and elsewhere and the future of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Russia has since responded by pulling out too, threatening to develop new missiles.

A new nuclear-arms race would be a nightmare for NATO, which is also under attack by President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders apologizes to Biden for supporter's op-ed Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Trump' if the US doesn't elect progressive Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover up,' 'national disgrace' MORE, who is bullying European allies to contribute more.

As a result, military spending now is booming with U.S. and China leading the race. India now outspends every European country on defense, while South Korea’s increase in spending last year was its highest since 2005.


Meanwhile, the president is also staging trade wars, which have only brought him retaliatory tariffs. In two separate papers published in March, some of the world's leading trade economists found that Trump’s duties were costing American consumers roughly $3 billion a month in higher taxes. The same economists declared Trump’s tariffs to be the most consequential trade experiment since the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariffs, blamed for worsening the Great Depression.

There is no doubt that President Trump's modus operandi is blowing up the U.S.-sponsored liberal international order and bringing the U.S. closer to a full retreat in isolation like a toddler putting his head under the blanket: Things might look better at first, but the world outside does not go away.

Today, the world is confronted by profound transformations.  The fourth industrial revolution has been in the making for twenty years and is more dramatic and at least as far-reaching as its predecessors are. It literally exploded on the scene exactly 10 years ago, in 2008, partly because of the economic crisis, which was a catalyst for the unfolding economic, social and geopolitical disruption.

The consequences are still coming to light, particularly the political ones: the rejection of the elite in favor of the so called “common people”; the tremendous crisis of the middle classes, the cornerstone of our liberal democracies, the rejection of moderates in favor of extremists, with their simplistic solutions for a complex world; the rejection of “experts” in favor of more or less ubiquitous obscurantism that is challenging knowledge, science and progress.

Cooperation is difficult, especially in a world that is becoming more complicated by the day. However, there is no other alternative than pulling up our sleeves and jointly get to the task, if we want to avoid fueling war-like conflicts and risk getting entrenched in a new global conflict. U.S. foreign policy cannot go back to the halcyon days of the 1930s.

We need to work together to go beyond the old arrangements, shaping the economics and the peace for the 21st century. We cannot favor competition over cooperation, protectionism over free trade, authoritarism over democracy.

It was Roosevelt, who said that the United States could not live alone, at peace; that the well-being of the U.S. depended on the well-being of other nations far away. "We have learned that we must live as men, not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger. We have learned to be citizens of the world," he insisted.

Roosevelt had learned the lessons of the past. Ignorance risks taking us back to the darkest of our history. The new world order is a shared order. Europe is ready to play its part, not least because peace, stability and cooperation are the major drivers for sustainable growth.

The question is whether the United States leadership is willing to pursue international economic and security policies that benefit all American citizens, not merely its elite. Because it will be that approach that will benefit also the rest of the world, in full democratic spirit.

Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee, the advisory body of the European Union.