Joe Biden’s decree to institute “Buy American” provision for the federal government when purchasing goods and services may appear to be a sensible economic policy, it is also an admission that Washington’s global economic narrative has failed.
For decades Western educational institutions, think-tanks and media outlets preached the virtue of free trade as the primary engine for world peace and global economic prosperity.
The US was the principal political and military champion of free trade economic narrative.
Questioning free trade while working at Western educational institutions and other organizations got one labeled as “backward.”
Academics, activists, and other professionals advocating against the US propelled free-trade narrative were less likely to receive funding and more likely to be de-platformed.
While there are certainly some benefits to reducing trade restrictions, the US-crafted narrative on the issue is more than a reduction of trade regulations.
The American model which is propagated publicly can be better described as free market fundamentalism. It’s not a policy but a narrative.
When it comes to policy, Western regimes justify their interventionist policies through mental gymnastics to secure economic dominance.
The cases of China and Iran are most obvious.
In July 2020, UK’s mobile providers were banned from buying new Huawei 5G equipment and ordered to remove all the Chinese firms’ 5G kit from their networks by 2027.
Even though Huawei is economically the more sensible procurement source, it is being banned.
In purely economic terms, many Western countries recognize the economic benefits of trading with Iran.
However, due to geopolitical and ideological considerations, Westerners interfere in the natural flow of trade with Tehran through sanctions and other forms of sabotage.
The Brexit phenomenon also demonstrates that the free trade narrative is losing its appeal even within its own camp.
Increasingly, experts and governments are recognizing the necessity that there needs to be a less biased look at the narrative of free trade.
While Biden and his economic team might continue to rationalize their more protectionist policies through the free-trade jargon, the political symbolism of their anti-free trade policies cannot be canceled out.
COVID’s negative economic repercussions and the West’s paranoia of a rising China mean a return to protectionism will become part of the normative global economic policies.
As this happens, it will significantly reduce America’s ability to set the global economic narrative.
China’s continued economic ascendancy and America’s eclipsing economic influence will continue to further undermine Washington’s free-trade narrative in practical terms.
No amount of think-tank publications and jargon-filled speeches will be able to cancel out this already visible reality.