One thing already seems clear in the Trump era: The world will not turn out to be the American president’s playground. His ultra-unilateralist, rejectionist policies on trade, the Iran denuclearization agreement, the costs of defense, and climate change are already creating an incipient anti-Trump movement globally (and in the United States as well). To a remarkable degree, the countries he has targeted are banding together to oppose him and his policies. That still-inchoate but gathering opposition assures that, whatever Donald Trump’s view of America may be, it is no longer—in the phrase coined 20 years ago by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright—the “indispensable nation.” Abroad or even at home, with the president facing increasingly strong headwinds on climate change at the state and local level, we’re entering a new world order on the heels of the collapsed American domination of the past three-quarters of a century.
Let’s consider the opposition Trump has generated on an issue-by-issue basis.
In January 2017, on his first day in office, President Trump promptly withdrew the United States from the long-negotiated 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact, deeply disappointing among others a close ally, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He had assiduously curried favor with Trump as soon as he was elected, on and off the golf course. A day earlier in January, Abe had even succeeded in getting his own parliament to approve the agreement.
But in an act by Washington’s allies unprecedented in the last seven decades, Abe, along with the leaders of the 10 other countries in that pact—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam—refused to take Trump’s executive order as TPP’s death sentence. Instead, in a groundbreaking step into a new world, they resumed negotiations on the pact in the Chilean city of Viña del Mar.
This March, after months of deliberation, they signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership in Chile’s capital city, Santiago. For the signatories, it reduces tariffs drastically, while introducing sweeping new trade rules in markets covering half a billion people on either side of the Pacific Ocean.
This was a landmark event, inaugurating an era in which countries long accustomed to following cues from Washington forged ahead without its participation. In doing so, they rejected Trump’s view of trade as a zero-sum game, consisting of winners and losers. Reflecting the common perception of the signatories, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said, “We need to stay on the course of globalization, yet learning from our past mistakes.”
Bachelet’s view was shared by Abe, who leads the country with the world’s third-largest economy. Japan is a key player in global trade. So, too, is the 28-member European Union (EU) whose aggregate gross domestic product ($17.278 trillion) far exceeds Japan’s ($4.872 trillion).