Financial TimesFinancial Times

America is feeling buyer’s remorse at the world it built

By Martin Wolf

27 Jun 2023 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

The U.S. has announced a "foreign policy for the middle class." But it may backfire and lead to "a fractured world, environmental failure, or outright conflict," argues the FT's Martin Wolf.

When the US talks, the world listens. It is, after all, the world’s most influential power. This is not due only to its size and wealth, but also to the potency of its alliances and its central role in creating the institutions and principles of today’s order. It played the decisive part in creating the Bretton Woods institutions, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the World Trade Organization. It promoted eight successive rounds of multilateral trade negotiations. It won the cold war against the Soviet Union. And from the early 1980s, it pushed for a deep and broad opening of the world economy, welcoming China into the WTO in 2001. Whether we like it or not, we all live in the world the US has made.

Now, suffering from buyer’s remorse, it has decided to remake it. Janet Yellen, US Treasury secretary, outlined the economic aspects of the new US vision in a speech delivered on April 20. Seven days later, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser to Joe Biden, gave an even broader, albeit complementary, speech on “Renewing American Economic Leadership”. It represented a repudiation of past policy. It could just be seen as a return to Alexander Hamilton’s interventionism. Yet, this time, the agenda is not for a nascent country, but for the world’s dominant power.

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