Protectionism and international diplomacy

25-06-2018

Just three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall signifying the end of Cold War aggression and the ascendancy of international liberalism, the world faces even greater uncertainty. In every region of the world, geopolitical shifts are taking place that have brought offensive trade agendas to the fore. The US has withdrawn from underwriting the post-World War Two international economic and foreign policy architecture, instead proposing to build a wall between itself and neighbouring Mexico, imposing unilateral tariff increases while refusing to negotiate new international agreements. In Europe, the project of ever greater integration has been attacked by Brexit, as well as other populist sentiment against the perceived power of EU institutions and the forces of globalisation. The breakdown of the western coalition advocating global governance has left a power vacuum that other key players such as China are forced to respond to. These current tectonic shifts in power and foreign policy positions impact on every country and every individual in the early 21st century. While many governments strive to maintain international cooperation and further integration, it is an unpredictable era. For trade policy has established itself firmly within the arena of high foreign diplomacy and as a result, traditional assumptions and adherence to international norms can no longer be assumed in such a state of political and economic flux. Yet when trade policy becomes a tool of diplomacy and foreign policy, sound economic reasoning can be lost to political decision making. This report shines a spotlight on the rise of protectionism in the 21st century. It examines the diplomatic dynamics behind economic nationalism and its attack on the established liberal international institutions that were created after the second World War to settle disputes without recourse to war. Before focusing on the US, UK, EU and China, the first chapter centers on the threat to economic integration and cooperation in promoting sustainable development through the multilateral rules-based system established under the World Trade Organization.

Just three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall signifying the end of Cold War aggression and the ascendancy of international liberalism, the world faces even greater uncertainty. In every region of the world, geopolitical shifts are taking place that have brought offensive trade agendas to the fore. The US has withdrawn from underwriting the post-World War Two international economic and foreign policy architecture, instead proposing to build a wall between itself and neighbouring Mexico, imposing unilateral tariff increases while refusing to negotiate new international agreements. In Europe, the project of ever greater integration has been attacked by Brexit, as well as other populist sentiment against the perceived power of EU institutions and the forces of globalisation. The breakdown of the western coalition advocating global governance has left a power vacuum that other key players such as China are forced to respond to. These current tectonic shifts in power and foreign policy positions impact on every country and every individual in the early 21st century. While many governments strive to maintain international cooperation and further integration, it is an unpredictable era. For trade policy has established itself firmly within the arena of high foreign diplomacy and as a result, traditional assumptions and adherence to international norms can no longer be assumed in such a state of political and economic flux. Yet when trade policy becomes a tool of diplomacy and foreign policy, sound economic reasoning can be lost to political decision making. This report shines a spotlight on the rise of protectionism in the 21st century. It examines the diplomatic dynamics behind economic nationalism and its attack on the established liberal international institutions that were created after the second World War to settle disputes without recourse to war. Before focusing on the US, UK, EU and China, the first chapter centers on the threat to economic integration and cooperation in promoting sustainable development through the multilateral rules-based system established under the World Trade Organization.