CFR Presents

Renewing America

Ideas and initiatives for rebuilding American economic strength.

Trump, DHS and Immigration: The New Memos That Ignore Political Realities

by Edward Alden Tuesday, February 21, 2017
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent (Mike Blake/Reuters).

A nation’s laws are not handed down from on high – they are the creation of flawed human beings working through flawed political processes. Successful political leaders understand this reality, and try to work within its limitations. Those who ignore it risk creating damaging social conflict. And that is what the Trump administration is risking with its new approach to enforcing U.S. immigration laws, which were outlined in a series of memos just released under the signature of General John Kelly, the new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Read more »

Trump May Threaten a Trade War Over NAFTA, but His Options Are Limited

by Edward Alden Thursday, February 16, 2017
Trucks wait in a long queue for border customs control to cross into the U.S. at the Otay border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico (Jorge Duenes/Reuters).

When then-President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement in a White House ceremony in December 1993, he called it “a defining moment” for the United States and praised Mexico and Canada as “our partners in the future that we are trying to make together.” All three countries had made what then seemed like an irreversible decision to marry their economic futures. Yet today, less than a quarter-century later, those bonds are badly fraying. Read more »

Trump and Borders: A Different, and Dangerous, Direction

by Edward Alden Thursday, January 26, 2017
A view of perimeter security fences which have been installed, and that are now too small for a foothold, at Los Angeles International Airport September 7, 2011, as part of new security enhancements following the 9/11 attacks (Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters).

President Donald Trump’s multi-pronged campaign to address the potential threats posed by refugees and migrants has a familiar ring. New border barriers with Mexico, a sharp reduction in refugee admissions, a crackdown on so-called “sanctuary cities,” and new restrictions on travel from countries thought to pose a terrorist threat—all these and more were part of the U.S. reaction to the September 11 terrorist attacks. Read more »

Trump and the TPP: Giving Away Something for Nothing

by Edward Alden Monday, January 23, 2017
Opponents of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement protest outside of the White House in Washington (Gary Cameron/Reuters).

President Donald Trump likes to claim that he is a smart negotiator. “He’s an amazing negotiator, probably the best in this world,” his attorney Michael Cohen boasted during the campaign. “He will deal with trade and deal with issues.” Read more »

Taking on Trump: A Lesson from the Japanese

by Edward Alden Friday, January 13, 2017
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addresses media following a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump in Manhattan, New York, U.S. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters).

Having watched Japan in trade negotiations with the United States for more than a quarter century now, I would never have described the Japanese approach as direct. When confronted with a difficult trade negotiating problem, they always tended to obfuscate, delay and otherwise try to muddy the waters. Read more »

Trumponomics: Can He Move Beyond Bluster to a Competitiveness Policy?

by Edward Alden Monday, December 12, 2016
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Vice-President Elect Mike Pence tour a Carrier factory in Indianapolis, Indiana (Mike Segar/Reuters).

It was hard not to root for President-elect Donald Trump when he went to the Carrier air conditioning factory in Indianapolis to announce a deal to save about 800 jobs the company had planned to move to Mexico. For those who have not watched it, the video that surfaced during the election—in which a company manager tells assembled workers their jobs will be sacrificed to “stay competitive and protect the business for the long term”—is a film noir of heartless corporate greed in an open global economy. Read more »

Donald Trump and the New Economic Order

by Michael Spence Tuesday, November 29, 2016
A TV screen showing Donald Trump is pictured in front of the German share price index (Kai Pfaffenbach).

HONG KONG – Since the end of World War II, the hierarchy of economic priorities has been relatively clear. At the top was creating an open, innovative, and dynamic market-driven global economy, in which all countries can (in principle) thrive and grow. Coming in second – one might even say a distant second – was generating vigorous, sustainable, and inclusive national growth patterns. No more. Read more »

Trump and U.S. Trade Policy: What’s Known is Scary, What’s Not May be Worse

by Edward Alden Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Donald Trump gestures while delivering a speech at the Alumisourse Building in Monessen, Pennsylvania, U.S., June 28, 2016 (Reuters).

For the past two decades, the central question in U.S. trade policy has been whether the government could continue to move forward in liberalizing trade. The answer was usually yes, but slowly. For the next four years, following the election of Donald Trump as president, the central question will be a different one: will the United States move backwards on trade, and if so how fast and with what consequences? Read more »

Failure to Adjust: How Americans Got Left Behind in the Global Economy

by Edward Alden Wednesday, November 2, 2016

I am delighted to announce the publication of my new book, Failure to Adjust: How Americans Got Left Behind in the Global Economy, which is the product of nearly four years of research and a quarter century spent as a reporter and policy analyst covering the ups and downs of America’s trade policies. As my friend and former reporting colleague Bruce Stokes of the Pew Research Institute said recently, for those of us who have labored in the obscure details of U.S. trade negotiations for decades, it has been astonishing to see trade become one of the hot-button issues of the 2016 presidential election. It is even more astonishing to see a Republican presidential candidate running on an openly protectionist platform, and to see a Democratic internationalist like Hillary Clinton running away from her record on trade. Read more »