Rethinking Trump's Foreign Policy in the Context of Economic Nationalism

Document Type : Research Paper


Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Mazandaran, Iran


The main objectives of economic nationalism as one of the Trump administration's top priorities were to increase the power of government and control the market by means of state interventionism. To achieve this goal, its proponents emphasized policies, which led to a tightening of trade policy, opposition to economic multilateralism, and a return to ideas of the Monroe Doctrine and the tradition of isolationism. The views of the former president Obama and those with different perspectives on how foreign economic policies should be conducted were ignored. During the Trump era, the ideas and policies related to economic nationalism spread around the world, especially among the right-wing politicians and theorists. Although this type of nationalism has a long history, but its revival in the U.S. neoconservative political circle drew the attention of a large number of politicians, parties and political groups in other countries to the prospect and value of implementing the principles of economic nationalism in their own foreign policymaking. As expected, the advocates of globalization criticized Trump’s decision to adopt policies in favor of economic nationalism against liberal and free-trade ideas. They held the belief that the resurgence of nationalism constitutes a threat to liberalism and globalization. Moreover, they issued a warning about its effects on  foreign investments and the likelihood of negative reactions of governments who were to lose from US shift to trade protectionism.
   The research questions raised here are: 1. What are the theoretical dimensions of economic nationalism? 2. What factors have led to the rise of economic nationalist ideas and practices in the United States? 3. To what extent had economic nationalism influenced the Trump administration's foreign policy? 4. What are lessons learned from the economic and political consequences of Trump's economic nationalism for the political leaders who are interested in pursuing Trump’s mercantilist approach? The research hypothesis asserts that economic nationalism with its emphasis on          trade protectionism, national power, unilateralism, accumulation of national wealth,  of  national  economy  from  the  world  economy,  prioritization  of national identity and nationalization had an undeniable impact on Trump’s foreign policy. To test the hypothesis, Trump's foreign policies will be evaluated in the context of his economic nationalist way of thinking using Robert Gilpin's theatrical framework. Qualitative and secondary data will be collected and analyzed using a qualitative case study method for the careful assessments of public statements made by US politicians and the policy outcomes. The findings show that neo-mercantilist economic nationalism had greatly influenced the Trump administration's foreign policymaking, and had led to the use of trade protectionism as an instrument for national wealth accumulation in the expectation of increasing US national power. Finally, policy recommendations are offered as a guide to the foreign policymakers of any country who intend to adopt economic nationalism and mercantilist principles, based on lessons drawn from the US experience of formulating and implementing foreign policy based on economic nationalist ideas. These eight interlocking points are as follows: 1. Pursue national wealth and income accumulation; 2. Consider a balance of trade surplus in economic transactions with other countries to bolster national economy; 3. Pay attention to ensuring the goal of economic self-sufficiency; 4. Choose the time-saving and low-cost approach of unilateralism to secure national interests and to protect domestic industries from foreign competition to a feasible extend; 5. Place the rise of national power among the primary foreign policy objectives; 6. Be aware of the impossibility of creating a powerful state without a cohesive national identity; 7. Prioritize the expectations and demands of the citizens over business consideration in policy intervention; 8. Finally, if there is any doubt between prioritizing the acquisition of wealth for a particular social class or national power, one should undoubtedly consider increasing national power in the formulation and implementation of foreign policy.



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Volume 51, Issue 3 - Serial Number 3
December 2021
Pages 762-737
  • Receive Date: 18 October 2020
  • Revise Date: 06 November 2021
  • Accept Date: 30 October 2021
  • First Publish Date: 22 November 2021