Inside Story

What do Trump’s tariffs mean for global institutions?

US imposes $34bn worth of tariffs on Chinese imports, while China responds with its own tariffs of equal value.

Last week it was Europe. This week, China.

US President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium are taking effect and the world, in turn, is responding.

In addition to the European Union and China, countries as far afield as Canada and India have also slapped tariffs on American goods in retaliation for the Trump administration’s levies on imported steel and aluminium.

Washington has responded by threatening even more levies on foreign goods entering the United States.

But the fight between Washington and a growing list of countries is not just about trade.

At last month’s G7 summit in Canada, Trump was at odds with most of his country’s closest allies.

Many of the same tensions seem likely to cloud next week’s NATO summit in Brussels.

In all these debates, Trump talks about “winning” and what he calls “better deals”.

But it often seems like his real target is the web of international institutions and alliances that have evolved in the decades since the end of World War II – often at the behest of the US itself.

So, can the global system of rules-based institutions survive Trump’s efforts to undermine them?

Presenter: Adrian Finighan


Scott Lucas – professor of international politics, University of Birmingham, UK

Philippe Legrain – former economic adviser to the president of the European Commission

Pauline Loong – managing director, Asia-Analytica