Who Won the Trade War?Issue: Fall 1995
Now that there is an armistice in the latest phase of the trade war with Japan, it is instructive to evaluate President Clinton's settlement, the costs of achieving it, and the implications for U.S. foreign policy in Asia. I believe the United States received too little and paid more than necessary. Even more troubling, this incident affirms that the administration still does not appreciate how and when to wield power. Worst of all, the Clinton team seems chronically incapable of integrating its ad hoc trade and foreign policies. While Clinton's Asian security specialists publish grand strategies, his economic and political advisors proceed case-by-case with Japan and China, applying contradictory and uncoordinated tactics.
The surest predictor of the administration's position on any foreign policy question remains its calculation of domestic political effect. Ironically, Clinton's bad foreign policy habits are fueling the isolationist sentiments he solemnly decries.