Trump’s Trade Threats Aren’t Scaring Anyone

Over at Wonkblog, Elizabeth Winkler says that Donald Trump’s trade threats seem to be working:

Since January, G-20 countries have imposed 29 percent fewer protectionist policies than they did in the same period in 2016. And it’s not because the United States is playing nice: Since January, U.S. policymakers have imposed 26 percent more protectionist policies on its G-20 peers than during the same period a year before, according to the report.

….Caroline Freund, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, calls this a “backlash to the backlash against globalization.”…“If [Trump] is going to go on a trade rampage, they don’t want to attract extra attention by imposing new measures,” Freund said.

Technically these figures are correct. But they’re pretty misleading. The other G20 countries have cut back on their trade actions against everybody in the G20, not just the US:

In 2017 so far, G20 countries have cut back on protectionist activities against the US by 29 percent, but they’ve cut back against everyone else by 46 percent. Here’s how this translates: last year, only 9 percent of G20 protectionism was aimed at the US. This year it’s 12 percent.

This suggests a harsher relative attitude toward the US this year, not a milder one. The real difference here is that the rest of the G20 is trying to cut back overall on protectionist activities while the US isn’t. But thanks to Trump’s threats, they’re not cutting back very much against the US. It doesn’t seem as if anyone is really all that afraid of him.


We recently wrapped up the crowdfunding campaign for our ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project, and it was a smashing success. About 10,364 readers pitched in with donations averaging $45, and together they contributed about $467,374 toward our $500,000 goal.

That's amazing. We still have donations from letters we sent in the mail coming back to us, so we're on pace to hit—if not exceed—that goal. Thank you so much. We'll keep you posted here as the project ramps up, and you can join the hundreds of readers who have alerted us to corruption to dig into.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.