Trade Winds: A Four-Part Series On Shifting Attitudes Toward Trade Agreements

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This article was originally published on Dec. 12, 2016 in Global Trade Magazine.

Part 3: Rising Protectionism Among Businesses Requires Revisiting Trade Policy

By Susan Pomerantz

On November 10, only two days after the election of Donald Trump to the United States presidency, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remarked that he would be willing to discuss changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The Canadian leader’s comments were in response to consistent declarations by the president-elect that NAFTA was a “disaster,” “defective” and “the worst trade deal ever” and needed to be renegotiated.

NAFTA isn’t the only free trade agreement (FTA) that has been the target of the president-elect’s criticism. The 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would cement America’s economic ties with the economies of Asia and challenge the emergence of China as a regional hegemon, has also been called out by Trump as a bad deal for the U.S.

Many commentators have suggested the protectionist sentiment of Trump’s campaign was convenient political posturing. Only time will tell if that’s true. What we know for certain, however, is that those protectionist politics are reflective of a groundswell of resistance to trade activity and a resurrection of the Buy America movement. That groundswell has been incorrectly associated exclusively with disenfranchised workers in the country’s Rust Belt, who have seen a reduction in once abundant and lucrative production-line jobs. It is not only they who are growing resistant to globalization.