Tribune. The US administration announced on October 3, a series of protectionist measures on a list of iconic European products: additional taxes of 10% on civil aircraft, and even 25% on a large number of products covering Italian cheeses and English, Irish and Scottish whiskeys, French wines, German tools and Spanish olives, etc.
This could be a new manifestation of President Donald Trump's strategy of advocating trade wars "Beneficial and easy to win". On the contrary, it is the return to a certain normalcy of international relations in terms of commercial exchanges that this episode brings to our attention, which is certainly to be welcomed.
Two types of disputes
Trade disputes are a constant of relations between sovereign states. The United States and Europe have not waited for the election of the current White House tenant to accuse each other of unfair actions, involving alleged dumping, violations of existing agreements, or discriminatory practices of access to public procurement. These trade disputes can be divided into two types:
– The disputes that are settled in an organized and structured legal framework. The framework can be multilateral (World Trade Organization) or regional (under agreements). This first approach reflects the long and tortuous process by which countries have agreed on how to resolve their differences. The result is complex rules, often very imperfect, but which share a common goal: to get countries out of a non-cooperative game, where escalating protectionist measures end up hurting all stakeholders.
– The disputes where everyone can use at will all the weapons at his disposal. In these types of disputes, it is common to circumvent or violate international agreements (which is not very surprising) and even to twist national laws to "win" the battle.
The second type of behavior is natural if one believes that international trade is a zero-sum game where the winner is the one who manages to impose his conditions on others. Since the beginning of his term, Donald Trump is resolutely in this second strategy. In keeping with his commitment as a candidate, he used a number of provisions of US law to full, and sometimes diverted, sections 301 (of the US Trade Act of 1974), and 232 (of trade of 1962)) to threaten and attempt to bend its trading partners.