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Editorial: Departure of int’l cooperation advocate raises concerns about U.S. administration

U.S. President Donald Trump has replaced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. With the departure of another advocate of international cooperation after National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, the U.S. administration is certain to lean even more toward its “America First” policy. How can the world restore its stability? Japan and the other major powers need to work together to champion “freedom and the market economy.”

 

Before Tillerson joined the administration, he was the board chairman of a major oil company. While his appointment was said to be partly based on personal friendship, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a Republican moderate, was the one who endorsed him. He is an advocate of diplomacy through dialogue and rumors of his dismissal began to circulate in light of his opposition to Trump’s plan to tear up the nuclear agreement with Iran.

 

Cohn also opposed the imposition of additional tariffs on steel and aluminum products, but Trump did not listen to him. It is believed that hardliners on China, such as Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy chief Peter Navarro, will now have a greater say in economic policy.

 

The U.S. administration has been continually replacing its senior officials. This is the first administration in which more than half of the key White House officials have been replaced within a year of inauguration.

 

There are also rumors that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, who is in charge of foreign policy, are going to be replaced. Concerns are even being voiced now about whether the U.S.-DPRK summit slated to take place by May can really be held.

 

The background to this upheaval is Trump’s strong sense of alarm about the mid-term elections approaching in November. The House of Representatives has the power to initiate the impeachment of the president. Whether the Republican Party is able to keep its majority will be critical for the administration.

 

In the House of Representatives by-election that took place in Pennsylvania on March 13, the Republican Party had to fight an uphill battle despite this constituency being a Republican stronghold. Trump will probably step up his promotion of protectionist trade policies and an isolationist foreign policy stance that are popular among the poor white Americans in order to sustain his administration. This would indeed revert the world to an era where the law of the jungle prevails.

 

The major powers should unite and say no to Trump-style diplomacy. There is also the option of filing cases with the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the imposition of unfair tariffs.

 

The Trump administration is hinting at the possibility of making an exception on the tariffs based on security considerations. Regardless of whether Japan is designated an “exception,” it should take a firm stance against the violation of WTO rules and make efforts for the development of the world economy based on rules.

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