Challenges to Multilateralism in the presence of the Trump Administration

Rashmika Singh

Research Intern

Internationalism


The process of organising relations between groups of three or more states is called multilateralism. Some certain qualities and principles are associated with multilateralisms such as a commitment to reciprocate, the indivisibility of interest among participants and a mechanism to settle disputes to enforce a particular mode of behaviour. Multilateralism emerged post World War II and this movement was led primarily by the United States.


Multilateralism is important for maintaining global peace and security it broadly encompasses treaties, agreements, security, and intelligence sharing and trade agreements. Multilateralism in many ways is the exercise of soft power by the members which opens the door for leverage in case other issues outside the defined relationship develop.


In today's time, multilateral order is under crisis, the United States which once helped establish the multilateral order, under Trump Administration is set on dismantling it. Mike Pompeo the US Secretary of State while addressing a Brussels audience stated bluntly that “international bodies must help facilitate cooperation that bolsters the security and values of the free world, or they must be reformed or eliminated and that our mission is to reassert our sovereignty” he also demanded to “make the international order serve our citizens not to control them”. The order which once was to maintain global security, peace and bolster economy was now to be used for sovereign gains (Fehl and Thimm, 2020). Ever since coming into office the president of the United States has formally withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council, Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisations (UNESCO) to name a few. Apart from that US under Trump administration has cut down funding for UN peacekeeping and UN agencies dealing with human rights, Palestinian refugees, population control, sustainable development, and global warming, threatened key multilateral organisations including the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and the International Criminal Court (ICC) ended cooperation with UN rapporteurs on human rights violations occurring within the United States (Zachary B. Wolf and JoElla Carman, 2020).


There has been no doubt that the United States has played a key role in creating and upholding the multilateral system and the current concern within the international community is palpable. One of the major challenges with the diminishing environment of multilateralism is international players participating in power politics one of the biggest examples is the People's Republic of China is flexing its muscles and utilizing other methods to gain power which is one of the biggest causes of increasing tension in the international community. PRC under the leadership of Xi Jinping is growing its diplomatic presence in resource-rich countries like Africa or the South China Sea, it is also competing economically with Western Countries which includes the Ballyhooed Belt and Road initiative. PRC is expanding its economic and political clout only because the United States is retreating from multilateral diplomacy. In African Nations, it is reported that US Diplomats are being outnumbered five-to-one by their Chinese counterparts. Five small Latin American nations have rejected intense US Lobbying and cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan; European Nations have paid no heed to the allegations of US that Huawei the Chinese telecommunications is suspected spying and have refused to cut the company out of their advanced communications networks (AP NEWS, 2020). The growing presence of PRC globally is especially a massive problem for India which is again an emerging power in the South Asian Sub-Continent.


Apart from the growing presence of China globally what one has to note is that multilateralism, as stated above, is not only necessary to ensure security but also to ensure competition, economic growth, and to deal with prominent Issues such as the drug trade, flesh trade, terrorism or the refugee crisis and especially the climate change crisis. António Guterres the United Nations Secretary-General in 2018 explained the necessity and benefits of multilateralism he states that

“Without the multilateral system and respect for international rules, we risk a return solely to power relations, reward-sanction mechanisms and a cycle of frozen conflicts” (IIEA, 2020).

But it seems that nations are disbanding the multilateralism ship and it was recently seen in the G7 Summit in Biarritz where the member nations were unable to agree to a joint communique on demanding issues such as trade wars, Iran Nuclear Agreements, relations with Russia (Borger, 2020).


Apart from the growing presence of China globally what one has to note is that multilateralism, as stated above, is not only necessary to ensure security but also to ensure competition, economic growth, and to deal with prominent Issues such as the drug trade, flesh trade, terrorism or the refugee crisis and especially the climate change crisis. António Guterres the United Nations Secretary-General in 2018 explained the necessity and benefits of multilateralism, he states that “

Without the multilateral system and respect for international rules, we risk a return solely to power relations, reward-sanction mechanisms and a cycle of frozen conflicts” (IIEA, 2020). But it seems that nations are disbanding the multilateralism ship and it was recently seen in the G7 Summit in Biarritz where the member nations were unable to agree to a joint communique on demanding issues such as trade wars, Iran Nuclear Agreements, relations with Russia (Borger, 2020).


There exists no doubt that multilateralism is under increasing strain ever since Donald Trump became the President of the United States but a most simple as a solution is that nations continue to collaborate and deal with emerging authoritarian regimes with the help of the existing and new organisations.


Bibliography


1. Fehl, C. and Thimm, J. (2020). Saving Multilateralism in Times of Trump: What Can Europe Do? - PRIF BLOG. [online] PRIF BLOG. Available at: https://blog.prif.org/2019/03/21/saving-multilateralism-in-times-of-trump-what-can-europe-do/ [Accessed 2 Jan. 2020].

2. Zachary B. Wolf and JoElla Carman, C. (2020). Here are all the treaties and agreements Trump has abandoned. [online] CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/02/01/politics/nuclear-treaty-trump/index.html [Accessed 2 Jan. 2020].

3. AP NEWS. (2020). As Trump shuns US multilateralism, China ups diplomatic ante. [online] Available at: https://apnews.com/a29307a77a27365af6ec0ae0863472fb [Accessed 2 Jan. 2020].

4. IIEA. (2020). The Challenge of Multilateralism. [online] Available at: https://www.iiea.com/eu-affairs/the-challenge-of-multilateralism/ [Accessed 4 Jan. 2020].

5. Borger, J. (2020). G7 summit: last rites of old order as Trump's theatre looms next year. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/26/g7-summit-biarritz-trump-theater-looms-next-year [Accessed 4 Jan. 2020].

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