As U.S. Flexes Its Muscles On Trade, Other Countries Are Beginning To Push Back This weekend's G-7 summit comes as the U.S. clashes with its biggest trading partners over tariffs. President Trump wants them to make big concessions, but he's encountering a lot of resistance.

As U.S. Flexes Its Muscles On Trade, Other Countries Are Beginning To Push Back

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Now, as we just heard, the G-7 summit comes as President Trump has been pressuring other countries to make big trade concessions. As NPR's Jim Zarroli reports, the resistance he's encountering underscores how isolated the U.S. has become on trade.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn't vent publicly much. But after Trump's recent tariffs on steel and aluminum, he reacted angrily.


PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: We have to believe that at some point, common sense will prevail. But we see no sign of that in this action today by the U.S. administration.

ZARROLI: And Canada isn't the only country that's unhappy. Trump's trade policies have been condemned throughout Asia, Europe and Latin America. Doug Irwin is a professor of economics at Dartmouth College.

DOUG IRWIN: Well, he's getting a lot of pushback from just about every country that he's taken a tough stance against. There's a lot of global resistance I think to the way the Trump administration's trying to push U.S. trade policy.

ZARROLI: In recent months, Trump has flexed his muscles on trade. He's insisted on renegotiating trade agreements and threatened tariffs against uncooperative countries. The tough stance represents a calculation that U.S. trading partners will cave in to Washington's demands because they need access to the vast American market. That kind of pressure has worked before. The U.S. once exerted a lot of pressure on Japan to open its markets. In 1987, President Reagan even spoke to the country's parliament.


RONALD REAGAN: Americans believe your markets are less open than ours. We need your support to lower further the barriers that still make it difficult for some American products to enter your markets easily.

ZARROLI: But Doug Irwin says times were different then. Japan was a key U.S. ally in the Cold War. The two countries needed each other. What's more, Irwin says the U.S. dominated the global economy more than it does today.

IRWIN: The weight of the world economy has really shifted towards Asia. That's where some really big, rapidly growing markets are. And the U.S. is just not quite as important as it was before.

ZARROLI: Irwin says today the United States' biggest trading partner is China, and it simply isn't as vulnerable to U.S. pressure as Japan was. Economist Simon Johnson of MIT says many countries are also confused by Trump's harsh rhetoric on trade which they see as a big departure from longstanding U.S. policy of promoting open markets.

SIMON JOHNSON: I think a lot of countries are taking the position that they have cooperated for a long time in what has always been an American-initiated and an American-overseen system. So now Mr. Trump wants to change the rules. You know, to what end? (Laughter) What exactly is he going to get from that?

ZARROLI: In the past, the U.S. has argued that fair and open trade benefits all countries. But in his speeches and tweets, Trump sometimes seems to view trade like a war game aimed at winning more favorable terms from your trading partners. And Doug Irwin says a lot of countries are worried that if they give in, Washington will keep demanding ever-bigger concessions.

IRWIN: And I think what they're doing is drawing a line in the sand early on, saying, look; this is an inappropriate way of approaching things; you can't treat us this way, and we're going to resist 'cause if they just cave in, then the Trump administration might double the ask.

ZARROLI: And U.S. trading partners are already making clear they're willing to go their own way. As the G-7 summit was approaching, French President Emmanuel Macron said maybe the American president doesn't mind being isolated, but we don't mind being 6 if necessary. Jim Zarroli, NPR News.

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.