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Can Global Rules Prevent National Self-Harm?

Summary:
Most policy mishaps in the world economy today – as in the case of US President Donald Trump’s tariffs – occur as a result of failures at the national level, not because of a lack of international cooperation. And, with the exception of two types of cases, countries should be allowed to make their own mistakes. CAMBRIDGE – US President Donald Trump has used national security as a justification for his tariffs on steel imports, his threatened tariff hikes on autos, and the tariffs he recently vowed to impose on Mexican imports. “If you don’t have steel, you don’t have a country,” he declared (to cite just one example). While Trump’s national-security claim seems absurd on the face of it, it

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Most policy mishaps in the world economy today – as in the case of US President Donald Trump’s tariffs – occur as a result of failures at the national level, not because of a lack of international cooperation. And, with the exception of two types of cases, countries should be allowed to make their own mistakes.

CAMBRIDGE – US President Donald Trump has used national security as a justification for his tariffs on steel imports, his threatened tariff hikes on autos, and the tariffs he recently vowed to impose on Mexican imports. “If you don’t have steel, you don’t have a country,” he declared (to cite just one example). While Trump’s national-security claim seems absurd on the face of it, it raises difficult questions for the word trade regime and global economic governance more broadly.

The critical challenge of global governance is determining the dividing line between policy domains in which nation-states are free to do as they please and those that are regulated by international agreement. In a world economy that has become increasingly interdependent, pretty much everything that one country does spills over to others.

But such...

Dani Rodrik
I am an economist, and a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. My most recent book is Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science (Norton, 2015). I was born and grew up in Istanbul, Turkey. I still follow Turkish politics very closely, as you will find out if you spend any time with this blog.

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