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Is "America First" a dangerous slogan?

Category: All industries

Posted: 08-25-20 8:27 AM - Views: 691

By: Richard Biggs

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As somebody who has spent their entire career in and around international Trade I am often faced with the dilema of whether Nationalism or Globalism is best for a country - looking inwards or outwards so to speak.  Donald Trump promised to put America first in his inaugural speech,  but this was not the first time that America has been down this road. The slogan appears at least as early as 1884, when a California paper ran “America First and Always” as the headline of an article about fighting trade wars with the British. The New York Times shared in 1891 “the idea that the Republican Party has always believed in”, namely: “America first; the rest of the world afterward”. The Republican party agreed, adopting the phrase as a campaign slogan by 1894.

Interestigly America First is best known as the slogan and foreign policy advocated by the America First Committee, a non-interventionist pressure group against the American entry into World War II, which emphasized American nationalism and unilateralism in international relations.

I wonder if countries such as the United States will be inwardly or outwardly looking following the end of Covid-19?  Despite the myriad of Free Trade Agreements under discussion right now, is there a shift around the world away from globalism and towards nationalism? 

BIG discussion point that probably needs to be  broken down into many component parts,  I'd love to hear opinions - let's not get too political though

Love to open a discussion

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Reply Nr.5 from Emily Bryson on 08-25-20 8:31 PM

I believe there always needs to be a combination of both.  It is never in anyone's best interest to be too polarized. It makes sense to want to take care of your country first but today's world is global and you can't operate successfully in isolation.

I echo all of Catherine's thoughts.  We are very reliant on other markets with few other options.  If we can become part of the conversation and active with the trade policies that would be extremely helpful.  Trade agendas are not always about new agreements but updating current agreements and building relationships.



Reply Nr.4 from Catherine Filippini on 08-25-20 5:25 PM

I agree with JT's points. The one element made clear from the pandemic is the absence of robust manufacturing in the U.S., though I don't think we are alone in that challenge. As countries have outsourced manufacturing to meet the consumer demand for cheaper products as well as internal demand for revenues, production capabilities at home have fallen. But I think the question about Buy ____, whether American, British, etc., really focuses on the concept of whether consumers will be willing to accept the potential of higher prices, limited quantities of goods, and possible product delays as 'in-country' supply chains to catch up or start producing parts and products in their own countries. Seems like there ideally needs to be a balance that allows for an increase in 'at home or in-country' production along with a strategy that continues to cultivate global business and a global supply chain. 

Reply Nr.3 from J T on 08-25-20 10:36 AM

It is in every country's self interest in ensuring they are successful and prosperous which in turn allows them to be a player in the global market. The words used to describe this can be as simple as fill in the blank "___ First" which is no different than a company competing for market share and wanting to be ranked at the top. You hear it all the time, Verizon is number 1, AT is number 1, Apple is number 1 etc ... The problem is that anything said by the president whether  good or bad is turned into a political spin by the opposing party. After all, keep in mind  the phrase "Make America Great Again '' was used by past presidents both Republicans and Democrats without it being turned into a political talking point or considered a dangerous slogan.

Keep in mind when a country negotiates a trade agreement like the UK is doing now with the rest of the world, are they coming to the table to give and not take? Are they saying we will buy from you and don't worry about buying from us ?  Of course not. They want the best trade deal they can get in the best interest of their country. Why not call it "Britain First" ? 

When almost everything you buy is made in China, you have to wonder realistically how long can a country survive without a manufacturing backbone. Love him or hate him, the current president does see the threat of becoming a country of consumers and non producers and appears to legitimately want to address the issue. Here in the United States and for the most part many western countries, we have a very narrow view of the state of things as "Now". The Chinese culture can see beyond now and have a long term view. While we bicker about many things, the Chinese have the patience to wait this out until we are at the point of 100% dependency on them for the most basic goods including medicine. 

As plants continue to close and offshore manufacturing, the countries losing their jobs to offshore will be impacted negatively. And as I said above, we see 1, 2, 3 ... 4000 factories close here in the US as a trickle. The Chinese see it as their glass is filling slowly and eventually one will be empty while theirs is full.

Reply Nr.2 from Richard Biggs on 08-25-20 9:15 AM

Very good point Paul - there are probably a number of sensitive industries that should be protected in the interests of a nation - this current pandemic has taught companies to diversify their supply chains and maybe keep some of it domestically plus it has taught Nations to do the same.

Food, pharmaceuticals and technology are in the limelight right now as industries that should be strong in America and for American to rely on for an increased domestic supply but I remember a few years ago at the outrage in the UK when nucleaur power plants were being build, owned and run by Chinese companies - State owned China General Nuclear Power (GNP) owns a 30% equity stake in a plant being built right now. The UK, where as many as six new nuclear power stations could be built over the next two decades, is an obvious export target for Chinese nuclear.

Reply Nr.1 from Paul Menig on 08-25-20 8:57 AM

Free trade is not synonymous with Fair trade. I'm currently listening to a ZOOM meeting on supply chains in food. Every company is responsible to its stakeholders to assure the viability of the business. The same is true of our national leaders. Risk management has been ignored in the process. The need for more local production and more widespread production is needed in many industries, not just food production. A business enters into partnerships with other companies when it is to the benefit of both. They go through a thorough due diligence before making agreements. Nations need to do the same and need to reevaluate those partnerships regularly. Businesses can eventually due a merger or acquisition. Nations cannot and should not.

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