By James McBride, Council on Foreign Relations–


The post–World War II era has seen the dramatic growth of international trade and the creation of a global trading framework based on the principle of open economies. The United States has been at the forefront of these changes even as it is less reliant on trade than nearly any other developed country.

With global trade talks stalling, the United States has increasingly turned to regional and bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs). President Barack Obama won the passage of FTAs with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, and before leaving office he negotiated the Asia-centered Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and advanced a separate U.S.-EU trade deal. But the election of President Donald J. Trump has upended this trade vision. Drawing on the arguments of many in the U.S. labor movement, as well as some economists, that such trade deals hurt workers and degrade the U.S. manufacturing base, Trump took immediate action to withdraw the United States from the TPP. Advocates counter that multilateral trade agreements create jobs by opening new markets to U.S. exports and making it easier for U.S. companies to compete in foreign markets.
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