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Trump readies full trade arsenal

National security concern over Ant Financial amid NAFTA doubts, threats to Chinese exports

| China
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a mechanical tool at a Made in America roundtable at the White House in July.   © Reuters

When the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump issued its National Security Strategy in December, the word "trade" was mentioned 45 times and "competition/competitors" 58 times -- making both themes among the top five issues raised in this declaration of U.S. foreign policy intentions. It reflected Trump's commitment to trade policy activism that was a signature theme of his presidential campaign and has been central to his professed political agenda since the 1980s.

Trump's repudiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact days after he took office in early 2017 was a powerful rejection of traditional U.S. leadership on trade liberalization and a rules-based order. It left a void in the Asia-Pacific region which Japan, Australia, New Zealand and others are now seeking to fill with the so-called TPP-11, the original signatories minus the U.S. As important as U.S. non-participation in TPP is to regional trade policy, the Trump approach to both global and other regional initiatives -- and its menu of unilateral options -- may be equally consequential.

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