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The completion of the Trump Administration’s first two years is an appropriate moment to take stock of the United States of America’s aggressive international economic policies. The Trump Administration is carrying out a new form of American rejectionism powered by four horsemen of economic instability: first, the rejection of the international rule of law; second, the rejection of open markets; third, the rejection of economic peace in favour of perpetual economic war; and fourth, the rejection of the global interest. The analysis herein shows how these four rejectionist policies are harming the United States, other countries, and the global order. With respect to the global order, the article focuses on the World Trade Organization (WTO), regional trade agreements, and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and explains how the Trump Administration is attacking these important institutions.

In doing so, the article challenges three widely-held assumptions. First, the article shows that in several important respects, American rejectionism did not begin with President Trump but rather was rooted in the economic policies of his recent Presidential predecessors, especially President Obama. Second, the article shows that far from being the leading scofflaw in the WTO, China is not acting nearly as irresponsibly as the United States does in its constant and flagrant violations of international trade law. Third, the article shows that the protectionist economic policies being pursued by the Trump Administration are unlikely to generate any short term gains for the US economy, and over time such policies will exact a loss for the US and global economy.

Several recommendations are offered for ways to improve US policies going forward. Among them are: ceasing the US war against the WTO Appellate Body, reinvigorating international trade negotiations, working with other countries to develop rules for the transition of nonmarket economies, and seeking a critical-mass international agreement to impose carbon charges so as to internalise the costs of greenhouse gas emissions.

GW Paper Series

GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2019-7; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2019-7

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