Multilateralism used to be perceived as an advanced and natural progression of society. However, even as globalization has deepened over the decades, the world is witnessing a trend of de-globalization. From the "America First" doctrine to "Brexit" negotiations, unilateralism is somehow gaining more momentum.
Is multilateralism losing its charm? What is the soil nurturing the rise of unilateralism? And what will be the way ahead for this world? Daniel Ikenson, director of U.S. Cato's Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, and Wang Huiyao, president of the Centre for China and Globalization are sitting together with CGTN Dialogue, shared their thoughts on the rising unilateralism and multilateralism which is being challenged.
Speaking of unilateralism, U.S. President Donald Trump is no doubt a practitioner. Ikenson considered President Trump as an exception compared with all U.S. presidents before him since the 1930s. He represented a major departure from 85 years of U.S. trade policy continuity that took the trade as a win-win proposition. He sees trade as a "zero-sum game where Team America against Team China, or Team America against Team Europe", Ikenson said.
Wang believed the deep reason behind the rising unilateralism is "global governance's falling behind global practice". Although globalization and multilateralism are flourishing for quite some time,many issues have not been settled in trade. The U.S. and some European nations believed their enterprises didn't get sufficient profits, and this triggered the rise of protectionism. And in this context, they also targeted China for blame.
Regarding the prolonged trade tensions between the world's two largest economies, China and the U.S., and the functions of multilateral institutions like the WTO on solving these conflicts, Ikenson expressed his views.
"The problem is he (Trump) is going about unilaterally…We have rules that have worked extremely well. The WTO has been a very good forum. There's a narrative from Washington that WTO doesn't work well to discipline China. The facts were quite the contrary. China has done very well of coming into complaints with the case that has lost at WTO, there've been about 41 cases brought against China. So the president is pushing by the narrative that we have to do this by ourselves, we're gonna lead in the trade war…I thought that would be more effective if we went to the WTO…Now the United States is an international scofflaw, while you are really weakening the rules-based trade which has been key to world economic growth for the past 70 years."
Wang Huiyao echoed Ikenson's perspectives, he also added that the WTO needs to be upgraded as the E-commerce and digital economy industry developed prosperously. Meanwhile, he highly suggested that China should consider joining the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) as it's a model for regional free trade and multilateralism.
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