The United States has been the standard-bearer for free trade, multilateralism, and globalization since the end of World War II. However, as the Trump administration seems to back away from that historic role, new powers like China are rushing – at least rhetorically – to take advantage of the strategic and economic vacuum that a more isolationist America might leave behind. Some fear that Washington’s apparent retreat from free trade and global leadership may provoke an international strategic realignment, a convergence of interests between the world’s remaining proponents of free trade, multilateralism, and globalization. The Cipher Brief’s Fritz Lodge spoke with Parag Khanna, author of the best-selling book Connectography, about whether such a realignment is taking place and what it could mean for the United States and the world economy.
The Cipher Brief: With what appears to be a more economically protectionist and diplomatically isolationist U.S. president in the White House, as well as the disruption caused by Britain’s impending exit from the European Union, do you see an opposite reaction from countries and leaders that continue to espouse globalist ideals? Is this leading to economic or strategic realignment?
Parag Khanna: I think the countries that have mutual interests want to continue uninterrupted by this new western volatility and new western trade policies. They want to move forward.
For example, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries – minus the U.S. and plus China – just got together in Vina Del Mar, Chile. That was a good example of one American misconception that the TPP – and global free trade at large – would die without U.S. support. The TPP seems to be carrying on. They may find a new name for it, but the bottom line is that China is now tentatively throwing its hat in the ring into an agreement that the U.S. crafted partially in order to isolate China. So you have this irony of ironies here.