Meridian Reads: Trade wars, USMCA and public diplomacy

President Trump speaking to reporters Wednesday in the Oval Office | Photo courtesy of the NYT.


It’s Sunday- you know what that means. Let’s jump into this week’s diplomatic news roundup……now.

Trump’s China deal leaves the global economy as uncertain as ever

Publication: The New York Times | By Ana Swanson and 

  • China… ever heard of it?
    • Probably. You’ve also probably heard about the, um, tension the U.S. is feeling right now.
  • President Trump’s trade truce with China may have temporarily cooled tensions between the world’s two largest economies, but the damage from Trump’s novel approach to trade policy will continue to weigh on the global economy.
  • The agreement in principle with China — which has yet to be finalized — would not roll back the hundreds of billions of dollars of tariffs that China and the U.S. have placed on each others’ products.
    • “I could solve the problem instantly, but it would be too hard. It’d be too harsh. It would involve tariffs on European products coming into this country. And for right now, we’re going to try and do it without that. But that would solve the problem instantly because the United States is not being treated fairly,” Trump said Wednesday during a news conference with the Italian president.
  • Trump has continued defended his unprecedented approach, saying it has created leverage and elicited trade concessions from China, Mexico, Japan and others.
    • However, those gains have come at a cost. The tariffs have raised prices for businesses, uprooted global supply chains and created crippling uncertainty for companies, delaying investment and hiring.
    • On Wednesday, retail sales in the United States fell for the first time in seven months as consumers slowed spending, particularly on autos.
  • Earlier this month, the World Trade Organization said that global trade in merchandise is expected to expand by only 1.2 percent during 2019, in what would be the weakest year since 2009, when the global economy was stuck in a recession.
  • You may be sick of seeing “TRADE WAR” every time you check the news, but we’re sorry to say you haven’t heard the end of it. And now the word “recession” may be popping up more often.

Administration tries to assuage Democrats’ concerns to ratify updated NAFTA trade deal

Publication: The Washington Diplomat | By John Brinkley Image result for usmca

  • The Trump admin and House Democrats have been hard at work to get the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), also known as the “New NAFTA,” set in stone.
  • Democrats have been reviewing the proposal, which has not been made public, and ramped up negotiations with the White House.
  • However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not committed to putting the trade deal up for a floor vote despite a push by the administration for its swift ratification.
    • For the USMCA to take effect, the House and the Senate have to approve it via floor votes. So does the Canadian Parliament. The Mexican Congress has already approved it
  • Democrats have said that USMCA  fell short of their expectations in a number of ways.
    • Their principal complaint is that it is weak on enforcement of labor and environmental rules.
    • They also object to the Trump administration’s acquiescing to the pharmaceutical industry’s insistence on having 10 years of exclusivity on the production and sale of biologic drugs, a condition that Democrats fear could lead to higher drug prices.
  • Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said on Sept. 11 that the administration’s proposal represented substantial progress, but more needed to be done, particularly on labor rights enforcement.
    • Originally, the United States demanded the right to send inspectors into Mexican factories to see if they were adhering to the USMCA’s labor standards. The government of Mexico objected to that.
  •  The prevailing view is that if it is not voted on by the end of 2019, it will not likely be taken up until after the 2020 election. Hang tight.

Americans and Russians should be friends— even if their countries aren’t

Publication: Foreign Policy | By Michael Carpenter and Spencer P. Boyer Protester hold a poster reading "the power, it's us. Give us a vote!" during a rally in Moscow.

  • Russia and the U.S. aren’t exactly best buds— tampering with a national election can have that effect.
  • Contrary to an early narrative of Russian appreciation for Trump because of his embrace of Putin, Russians’ favorability of the United States has dropped significantly—from 41 percent in 2017 to 26 percent in 2018, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center.
  • What’s to blame?
    • Sanctions, relentless anti-U.S. propaganda, and geopolitical standoffs in Ukraine, Syria, and Venezuela are all responsible.
  •  In the United States, 64 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Russia.
  • Many feel that the U.S. should consider how to reinvigorate and recast public diplomacy programs in Russia to lay the groundwork for a better relationship in the future, particularly by fostering connections with the younger generation of Russians.
    • Pssst, Meridian spoke with a student from Russia on her view of the U.S. —  you can listen here.
  • Public diplomacy has been an essential component of U.S. efforts to build stronger bonds with the Russian people since the end of World War II.
  • The majority of public diplomacy incorporates educational, professional and cultural exchanges, something Meridian is pretty passionate about.
  • Some Americans have called for the Trump admin to work with Russia to reinstate the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program, which was the largest U.S.-Russia educational exchange program until Russia ended its 21 years of participation in 2014.
  • FLEX  is still robust in several Eurasian countries and provides invaluable opportunities for Russian high school students to spend several months with a U.S. host family for an immersive experience in American life.
  • We’re not sure if this is on Trump’s priority list, but we’re always for more public diplomacy. You can check out our related programs here.