By Caroline Sha
Colloquially known as the “oldest occupation in the world,” sex work has existed for centuries in almost every part of the world. From references in the Hebrew Bible to the yūjo of Japan, prostitution has had some manifestation wherever humans have settled. In the modern day, prostituion remains pervasive, with 40-42 million people in working in the field. Although some countries, such as Germany, have legalized it, sex work remains punishable by law, both for the solicitor and worker, in many other nations, including the United States.
However, despite the illegality of their work, it is estimated that in the United States, there are one to two million prostitutes. They solicit clients on the street, online, or in the case of Nevada, through legal adult brothels. While most sex work transactions occur between two consenting adults, sex trafficking (in which people, especially women in children, are forced into prostitution) often uses the same channels and networks as consensual sex workers. In response to this problem, Congress passed FOSTA-SESTA on April 11, with Amy Wagner as a key sponsor. This piece of legislation subverts parts of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996, which ensured that websites could not be held accountable for content users post. Under this new law, if ads for prostitution are found on a website, the site’s publishers can be held legally liable for it. Supposedly, this will help stop trafficking, as websites, fearing legal action, would shut down any avenues for sex work advertisements on their websites, both consensual and non-consensual.
Yet, for a law that’s intended to combat sex trafficking, FOSTA-SESTA worsens the problem. When traffickers are pushed off the internet onto the dark web and on the street, law enforcement officers have a harder time gathering evidence of trafficking and finding trafficking victims in the first place. According to a 2018 State Department report, the internet has made it easier to identify victims of trafficking, allowing for the identification of 58,000 more victims worldwide from 2011 to 2017. This phenomenon is possibly due to the increase in victims advertised online rather than in physical manifestations. Hence, taking such a resource from law enforcement would be detrimental. Moreover, websites who have hosted ads by traffickers have been able to aid law enforcement, providing valuable pieces of evidence to investigations. Proving sex trafficking already requires a high burden of proof, and without this digital evidence, it may be harder for traffickers to be brought to court. Considering the already miniscule number of traffickers convicted, with conviction rates as low as 8% in Massachusetts since 2011, this law only further muddles the legal path to achieving/obtaining a conviction.
Even though Amy Wagner claimed that trafficking ads have decreased by 90% because of this law, in reality, she is referencing data regarding all sex work ads, not just trafficking ads. What’s more, the 80% drop in ads occured right after the shutdown of Backpage, a site used by many sex workers, which came before FOSTA-SESTA, and the percentage of sex work ads has been steadily rising back to its original levels ever since, partially because of the rise of other sites that can be used for the same reason. Having all these major websites used for solicitation shutting down or getting rid of certain parts of themselves are doing little to tackle the major issue
In addition to its inefficiency, FOSTA-SESTA is instead putting sex workers, who already experiance an incredible amount of risk, in more danger. Websites such as Craigslist and Backpage allowed for prostitutes to make transactions that were safer than street work. With technology, they could screen possible clients beforehand by messaging them and negotiate safer sites of work. Or, sex workers could share “bad date lists” in which clients who were aggressive or possibly dangerous are named, allowing for prostitutes to lower their chances of something going wrong on the job. Now, without the protection of online tools, many sex workers are moving back onto the streets, which makes them a greater target for predators. Already a very vulnerable population, sex workers who engage in consensual transactions have just had their lives put in more peril.
Furthermore, by holding websites liable for ads promoting consensual sex work as well as nonconsensual, law enforcement may waste more resources on targeting voluntary sex work instead of trafficking. Rather than helping end trafficking, as the law was promised to do, we will end up diverting valuable resources towards exchanges that aren’t related to sex trafficking; this will end up lowering the amount of victims identified even more and hurt the finding and prosecuting of traffickers even more. Though websites should of course be held accountable for when they knowingly enable trafficking, as in the case of Backpage, they should not be punished for hosting voluntary sex work ads which ultimately makes the lives of so many sex workers safer.
If the United States wants to truly combat sex trafficking, efficient reform must be made, starting from the civilian level to the legal system. To start, in order to actually identify more victims, the public must be informed on the signs of trafficking and how to report it. Though law enforcement is able to do things like go undercover to find victims, having citizens who are able to identify signs of trafficking themselves would facilitate the process. Even so, even with a higher number of identifications, the courts should also be reformed so that prosecuting and convicting traffickers is easier. In some states, their attorney generals aren’t even allowed to prosecute these cases, leaving the burden of trying and convicting on district and county attorneys, who may be less equipped to go through these cases. Combined with law enforcement who may have not gotten the proper training to identify and deal with trafficking cases, a gross overhaul of the legal system is required. Finally, in order to decrease the amount of sex trafficking in the United States, more support needs to be given to victims, who may have no means of supporting themselves or may be too scared to speak out. There are many ways to help stop trafficking but FOSTA-SESTA is not one of them.
Furthermore, one of the major ways to help the population this law was meant to protect is to decriminalize the profession. Laws that make sex work illegal, even if they are sometimes meant to decrease the violence prostitutes face, only end up worsening the dangers for them. First off, the criminalization of enablespolice harassment; many sex workers report being assulted by law enforcement and being exploited for things such as money or food in exchange for not being arrested. In addition, when sex workers are arrested or fined for their work, it can end up taking some sex workers away from their families and lowering the amount of income they recieve to support the aforementioned families. Many prostitutes go into the business because they don’t have another more reliable source of income so by imposing penalties on the field, the livelihoods of some of the most vulnerable people are completely hurt. In addition, if sex workers are given a criminal record for their work, their chances of finding housing and other employment are decreased dramatically, further decreasing the quality of life for them. Compounding the rationale for decriminalization, a legitimate market would empower prostitutes to take more control of their transactions. By making the field decriminalized, sex workers have more of a voice to do things like demand the usage of condoms, which decreases incidence of STD’s. And perhaps most importantly, the criminaliztion of sex work encourages violence against sex workers because in order to avoid arrests, they may move more underground, giving them less autonomy over things like where they work. Furthermore, this also compels prostitutes to not seek legal help when they do experience violence, either out of fear of arrest and police abuse, or simply because law enforcement officers are less impelled to investigate such crimes. We can’t decrease the amount of violence against this vulnerable group if we have set up a legal framework where victims won’t come forward. In order to truly help voluntary sex workers, we must decriminalize the profession.
And to answer those who truly believe that we must lessen the prevelance of sex work, the solution is not to focus on criminalization, but to solve the issues that compel so many to turn towards it. Though stopping people who truly want to be in this profession would be a major violation of their rights, alleviating problems like inequality may decrease the number of those who turn to sex work out of desperation. Poverty and a lack of a social support net are major reasons for why so many become sex workers. Instead of making laws that just endanger those already involved in the field and wasting resources on enforcing a ban on prostitution, the United States government should focus on passing legislation that would give people alternatives to sex work. For example, by strengthening our education system, especially in lower performing schools by allocating sufficient funding to them, we can help equalize the imbalance in educational opportunity that faces our country today.
In the end, the prohibition of sex work ends up endangering the very people they are said to protect and laws like FOSTA-SESTA end up exasperating the risks sex workers already face. Sex trafficking, especially of children, is a pressing issue that must be solved but FOSTA-SESTA is not the answer. A fundamental change in the legal system is required to truly make a dent in this issue; we should not be punishing sex workers by making their lives more dangerous because of our failure to make effective legislation. In the bigger scope of things, laws like this which implicitly continue the crimilization of sex work also only expose the need to actually decriminalize the profession. By making sex work not punishable by law, not only can we improve the lives of prostitutes but focus more resources on things that actually matter. It is time to take into account the lives of those we claim to protect for once and actually help them. We must repeal FOSTA-SESTA and decriminzlize sex work instead of feigning empathy with harmful laws.
By Jedson Boyle
On June 23, 2016, 51.9% of the voters in the United Kingdom voted to bring the country’s membership in the European Union to an end. Since its creation, the United Kingdom has had a complicated and often testy relationship with the rest of Europe, as manifested by centuries of wars from the Norman Conquest, through the Hundred Years War, all the way to the world wars. Often, as the UK went through times of war, so did Europe, though removed from the rest of the continent turned out to be a blessing as it was mostly safe from invasion. However, this blessing was a bit of a double-edged sword.
After the death, destruction, and devastation of the Second World War, the countries in Europe wanted to find a new way to keep the peace. There were growing calls for the countries in Europe to come together and to stop fighting. As a result, in 1957, six nations in Europe signed the Treaty of Rome, thus creating the European Economic Community. However, the United Kingdom was not one of the countries that joined. The UK applied three times to join this union. Twice, this application was rejected by President Charles de Gaulle of France, who was worried that British membership would weaken the French position in the EEC.
Finally, on January 1, 1973, the United Kingdom officially joined the European Economic Community. Though British Prime Minister Edward Heath considered this achievement to be his greatest accomplishment. He and the Conservative Party were voted out of office in the 1974 UK General Election. Former Labour PM Harold Wilson returned to office vowing to put the new membership up for referendum. The British voters approved membership in 1975 by approximately a two-to-one margin.
The UK didn’t integrate with the EEC as much as many in Europe had hoped. In 1979 the European Monetary System was created, encouraging countries in the EEC to coordinate their currencies, creating an Exchange Rate Mechanism. This was seen as a step in the creation of a single currency. The UK was the only country not to join this, which was one of the first displays of how the UK, even in the European Union, was still often isolated from it.
More than a decade later, in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the early 1990s seemed to be a promising time for Europe, as it appeared as if further European integration was assured. On February 7, 1992, the Treaty of Maastricht was signed. This lead to the official creation of the European Union. The organization made laws relating to justice and home affairs and adopted a foreign and security policy. A significant part of the European Union was the Single Market which allowed for the free movement of goods and services. This was made possible by a customs union, which eliminated customs barriers between the EU member states. The people of each of the member states were still citizens of their own respective country, but now had EU citizenship as well. Anyone could now move about and live in any European state. They could also vote for the European Parliament and in any local election in the country in which they lived in.
It took a couple of years and a couple of failed referendums for everyone to ratify the treaty, but every single state eventually did. It was very difficult for Conservative Prime Minister John Major to get ratification through the parliament. Even more, the UK did not actually integrate with Europe regarding the social chapter, which dealt with worker’s pay until after the 1997 UK General Election in which the Labour Party, led by Tony Blair, swept to power. The UK later on also refused to adopt the Euro, the single currency.
Many people in Britain wanted out of the EU. However, these people did not really have a lot of actual political power until after the 2010 elections when Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron (alongside a coalition with the centrist Liberal Democrats) took power.
After the 2010 elections the UK Independence Party (UKIP) a right-wing Eurosceptic party led by Nigel Farage, began to rise in the polls. They surged into third place, ahead of the Liberal Democrats. This party was peeling away the right wing of the Conservative Party. So in the leadup to the 2015 elections, in an attempt to garner right wing support, Cameron announced his support for an In/Out referendum on British membership in the European Union. Polls in the weeks and months leading up to the election showed that Labour and Conservative would likely have about the same number of seats, and be far short of the 326 seats needed to form a majority.
However, as Big Ben struck ten on May 7, 2015 and the polls closed, the exit poll was revealed and the result was shocking. The Conservatives, while they would be short of 326, would gain seats and would be even further ahead of Labour. The next day, not only did Cameron return as PM, the Conservatives won 331 seats, 5 more than needed for an overall majority.
Given the narrowness of the new majority, and the weaker-than-expected showing of UKIP, it was clear that David Cameron owed much to the Eurosceptics; if he were to remain politically viable, he would have to follow through on his promise to call the referendum. Eventually, a referendum was called for June 23, 2016.
Cameron himself was opposed to Brexit and most of the British political parties were against it, including Labour and a large portion of the Conservative Party Some Conservatives and all of UKIP supported leaving the EU. The polls in the last weeks and months showed Remain winning by a relatively narrow margin.
The polls closed at 10 PM on June 23 and two hours later the votes came trickling in. Early in the morning, the BBC projected that Leave would win. The political fallout was shocking. A couple hours later, Prime Minister Cameron announced his resignation and Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England was forced to call for calm. The financial markets across the world plummeted that day, as did the pound sterling.
The race for Leader of the Conservative Party wrapped up fairly quickly. Home Secretary Theresa May was voted in on July 11 and she became Prime Minister on July 13. Some people did not want Theresa May to enact Brexit, but she believed that “Brexit means Brexit.”
Brexit, of course was not going to happen right away. May had to trigger Article 50 on March 20, 2017, which would be the start of a two year process for Britain to leave the European Union. However, May would have to negotiate a deal with Europe on the terms on which the UK would leave and the closeness of the UK to Europe would have to be determined. Then, May would have to get this deal through the British Parliament. Unfortunately for her, her party only had a narrow majority in the House of Commons. However, polls showed that if a general election were held that day, she could expand her majority to over 100.
On April 18, May announced she would call a snap general election for June 8, 2017 to ensure “certainty and stability” for the years to come. Polls showed the Conservatives leading Labour by 20 points. However, in the weeks following, the lead narrowed. However, it still seemed likely that she would still expand her majority. Not as much as she initially hoped, but life was supposed to become easier for Theresa May. However, when all the votes were counted, though the Conservatives were the largest party, no party received an overall majority.
After this shocking results, many speculated that Prime Minister May would resign, but the next day, with her husband by her side, she announced she would remain Prime Minister. She cut a confidence-and-supply deal with a conservative Northern Irish Party called the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). This meant that the DUP would allow the Conservatives to govern and support them in budget votes. Formal negotiations began near the end of June.
Negotiations continued throughout the year. Knowing that a parliamentary vote would be tough, May attempted to allow her deal to be enacted without going through Parliament. However, on December 13, the opposition got enough government MP’s to side with them to force Theresa May to have her deal sent through the parliament before being enacted. Two days later, the second phase of negotiations began.
By March, substantial progress in these talks had been made. On March 19, the UK and European negotiators agreed that there would be a transition period after March 29, 2019. The transition period would end December 31, 2020. During this transition period, the United Kingdom would pay into the EU budget and keep access to the EU markets. It would continue to accept the free movement of people into and out of the European Union. However, its part in EU decision making would end.
The negotiators also reached an agreement on the fishing policy. The fishing policy would allow only a British seafood exporters tariff, and in return, the UK would get access to EU fishing markets as long as EU fishing fleets were allowed to continue to fish in UK waters. The status of EU citizens before and after Brexit was also decided. This stage of negotiations was pretty much finished and on July 8, 2018, Prime Minister May presented a general outline of what the United Kingdom’s relationship with the EU would look like after the withdrawal. Many hardline Brexiteers were outraged (hard brexiteers support the cutting off of all ties with EU. Soft Brexiteers support the UK still having some formal ties to the EU. The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis (both of whom wanted a more distant relationship with the EU) resigned upon the presentation of the plan. The European Commission rejected the plan made by the negotiators. Negotiations continued until November, 2018 when Theresa May presented her EU Withdrawal Agreement and the political declaration (revised) stating what the United Kingdom’s relationship would be with the EU after Brexit.
The draft withdrawal agreement was 585 pages long. There was rather muddled language on whether the United Kingdom would leave the Single Market or the Customs Union. A very contentious issue was the Irish border. The country of Ireland borders Northern Ireland, a constituent country in the United Kingdom. Ireland is in the European Union, and part of the European Union includes free movement of people. Ireland and the UK have had a contentious relationship since Ireland gained independence from the UK. Relations did improve in 1998, when both sides signed the Good Friday Agreement, therefore ending hostilities. One of the things that had led to stability along the Irish border was the open border. If there was to be a hard border between the UK and Ireland, violence could break out and relations between the two countries would sour once again. Therefore, in the withdrawal agreement, it was agreed that during the current transition period (ending December 31, 2020) a free trade deal would be worked out between the EU and the UK. If there is no agreement six months before the specified date, the transition period could be jointly extended between the EU and the United Kingdom for a period yet to be determined. If this does not occur there would be a hard border.
The Irish border is only a part of this backstop. The backstop has “a single customs territory between the Union and the United Kingdom.”, which would begin at the end of the transition period. There would be certain “non-customs checks” on goods traveling between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. When the transition period comes to an end, the final agreement will be managed by a joint committee that would make unchangeable decisions based on what both parties agree to. A joint panel would be created to manage any disputes between the two countries.
Prime Minister May announced that the Parliament would hold a “meaningful vote” on the Brexit Deal in mid-December, but she postponed the vote to January 15 after it became clear she did not have enough time to get the support she needed. When it did occur, her deal was defeated. It was the largest commons defeat for a government in UK history, with the final count coming out to 202-432. Not completely defeated, however, she tried again to have her deal voted on. The second vote was held on March 12. This time, it failed by a slightly narrower margin. The next day the parliament voted to reject and “no-deal Brexit” in which the UK would leave the EU without any deal.
Most people oppose a “no-deal Brexit” for good reason. If this scenario were to occur, it would cause enough chaos; in fact, the UK has already deployed 3,500 troops in case this catastrophe were to occur. Currently, goods move between the UK and the EU with no checkpoints, allowing trade to be very quick across the English Channel. In the event of no deal, the UK would leave the Single Market and the Customs Union immediately. Customs checks would be deployed immediately and trade would ground almost to a halt. In addition, flights would be grounded, and travel to Europe would be practically impossible. Worst of all, there would be food shortages due to trade becoming much more difficult. This could be an event that impacts the UK for a long time and never recovers from.
Consequently, some people are calling for a second referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU. The European Commission indicated that it would extend the period if a second referendum is to happen. Polls show that much of the UK public would vote to undo Brexit and remain in the EU. However, after this long and dreadful dispute, it is likely that relations between the UK and Europe would be strained for the years to come, and on March 14, 2019, the UK Parliament rejected a second referendum.
On March 29, the UK Parliament held a third vote. Prime Minister May promised that she would step down if her deal got through. Even so, though the margin was much narrower this time, it still failed. The week before, on March 22, the parliament had voted to extend the deadline to April 12 and on April 10, the British Parliament voted to extend it to October 31.
So far, no substantial progress has been made. On May 23, elections to the European Parliament were held and Nigel Farage’s newly-formed Brexit Party won the most seats in the UK’s share of seats. However, many pro-EU citizens breathed a sigh of relief because more voters cast ballots for pro-European parties that Eurosceptic parties. Across Europe, many were relieved that the wave of far-right Eurosceptics that was expected to sweep into Brussels did not materialize. However, on May 24, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she would resign her post effective on June 7. Her resignation as Conservative Party leader took effect on June 7 as a leadership election began. On July 23, Boris Johnson was announced as the winner of the leadership election, defeating Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. He moved into Downing Street the following day.
Boris Johnson has said that if he has to take the UK out of the European Union without a deal, he will do it. However, in the last days before October 31, Boris Johnson was forced to extend the deadline to January 31. A few days, Boris Johnson called yet another snap election.
It appears as if the entire Brexit situation has come to a complete stalemate. If Boris Johnson and his Conservatives win the election on December 12, he will still be in a difficult situation, especially if he fails to get a majority. There are many different factions within the parliament, many of which transcend party lines. Some support Brexit no matter the consequences. Some want Brexit but would prefer that the UK and the EU reach a deal. Some oppose Brexit completely and want a second referendum. The problem is, no side seems to command a majority in the parliament and each side is waiting to see which side blinks first. Whether the Conservatives or Labour get a majority, it may not be enough if the parties themselves are divided.
The only way, something may get done, is if the Liberal Democrats, the most pro-EU party in the United Kingdom, win the elections. They would likely call a second referendum and, based on the fact that most UK voters currently prefer to stay in the EU, the UK would remain. Of course the polls were wrong the first time, but overall the polls were closer than they are now. However, the problem for the Liberal Democrats is that they are currently polling in a relatively close third. Overall, Labour, the party currently polling second, is slightly more pro-EU than the Conservatives, but many working class Labour voters (especially in the northern part of England) backed Leave in the Brexit referendum. This uncertainty brings many uncertainties regarding the upcoming election. Is it possible that more educated Labour votes in and around London that backed Remain will ditch Labour and vote Liberal Democrat? Is it possible that the 29% of Conservatives that voted Remain will ditch Johnson and vote Liberal Democrat? Or will Labour and the Liberal Democrats continue to poll close enough to each other so that the anti-Johnson vote is split and the Conservatives secure a plurality, maybe even a majority of seats? Now that the Brexit Party is withdrawing its candidates in constituencies held by the Conservatives, the pro-Brexit votes will no longer be split, thus making it even easier for Johnson to win.
Whatever happens, it is clear that the UK political system will never be the same. Even if the UK decides that it wants back in on the EU, the relationship between the two entities is likely to be damaged for decades to come. The relationship has never been easy, and this recent upheaval will complicate it, as well as the entire European scene even more. Due to the rise of populist Eurosceptic parties throughout Europe, many are doubting whether the EU would even survive a successful Brexit. Opposing this trend, however, are the election results across Europe in recent months which suggest that this tide may be slowing. In Austria, the populist Freedom Party suffered their worst defeat in over a decade. In Finland, the populist Finns failed to win the elections there. And last Sunday, the liberal pro-EU Romanian President won a 30-point landslide reelection victory. Anti-EU populist parties have also taken hits in polls recently. For example, the far-right AFD in Germany has dropped to fourth place as opposed to about 15 months ago when it was polling in second. Perhaps the people of Europe are seeing what it is like to travel down a road of uncertainty and thinking about choosing a different path.
There really is no way to predict the outcome of Brexit. In fact, we cannot even begin to predict the outcome until after the elections on December 12. No matter where the polls stand now, they could be radically different as the election date approaches. And so could the future of Brexit.
By Benny Sun
After one month of his presidency, Trump did the unthinkable; with security experts, defense lobbyists, and military contractors joined together in shock around the globe, Trump discovered the ultimate form of warfare surely to shake the international stage: Twitter. With his right hand furiously tapping away and his left comfortably by his side, Trump has no-doubt altered the method of conducting foreign policy in America, cutting off foreign aid to Pakistan via Twitter, sending in troops to Afghanistan via Twitter, and even bickering about North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un… via Twitter. Unsurprisingly, this past summer marks another time Trump has famously used his Twitter weapon, as Trump announced in April of 2019 that the US is now able to “put tariffs on 11 billion dollars of EU products!”, furthering that “the EU has taken advantage of the US on trade for many years. It will soon stop!” With October marking the end of Europe’s and America's failure for productive trade negotiations, the World Trade Organization has finally given the greenlight for America to impose tariffs on the European Union, an outcome which could potentially reorient international supply chains around the world and even shift major geopolitical dynamics, in this duel launched solely from a single tweet.
Since his nomination to presidency, Trump’s tariffs have been a major element behind his economic beliefs. With years of bipartisan support for unrestrained free trade, Trump’s tariffs are another example of how his political views run opposite to the Republican Party. Under the auspices of protectionism, Trump touts restrictions on foreign trade either through tariffs or other government regulation as a strategy to shield domestic industries from foreign competition. In fact, Trump’s support for protectionist policies stems from his populist backing, as the majority of Trump’s political base, who work in the agricultural and industrial sectors, also feel that foreign goods have the potential to seize American jobs and hurt local domestic growth with their cheaper prices. As such, Trump began initiating many trade wars with other countries by placing tariffs on the imports of other countries like Mexico, China, and now the member nations of the European Union.
Tariffs on the European Union are no different and are a result of similar consequences of foreign competition. In April of 2019, Trump tweeted his plans to target $25 billion dollars of European exports with tariffs, as part of a dispute over Europe’s subsidies to Airbus, an aerospace and defense company. These trade policies followed personal complaints and lobbying efforts from America’s largest manufacturing exporter, Boeing. Boeing argued that Europe was unfairly giving substantial financial support to the European airplane manufacturer Airbus, giving Airbus the opportunity to sell their planes at a much cheaper price which undercutted Boeing’s sales. Trump’s decision has not gone ignored. The European Union also has declared retaliatory tariffs against American imports, pushing both parties towards the negotiating table.While the European Union and the United States sought to establish peace through trade negotiations which would take place beginning in May, these talks ended abruptly in October due to bitter rivalry and lack of agreement.
In order to impose tariffs on another country, the United States must first file a complaint to the World Trade Organization, who then rules on the validity of the complaint. As such, on October 2nd of 2019, the World Trade Organization cleared Trump’s ability to impose tariffs over the European Union, which included a 25% duty on a range of products like Italian cheeses, French wines, and Spanish olives, and also a 10% tariff on all Airbus products adding up to 7.5 billion dollars worth of imports (18 billion dollars less than initially threatened). Inadvertently, America’s tariffs could negatively harm some American workers. Many analysts including the Specialty Food Administration predict that these tariffs could adversely raise the price of some European food products by 33% and the United States could lose 14,000 specialty food retailers and 20,000 other food retailers nationwide. Conversely, a European Central Bank study conducted by Dr. Venessa Gunnella and Lucia Quaglietti concludes that current trade-war outcomes have had “mild impact across the Atlantic”.
However, while the trade conflict may seem mild, recent deadlines placed by Trump previously could potentially escalate the EU-US dispute and cause severe consequences. In May of 2019, Trump announced that he would delay his decision of implementing tariffs on Europe’s automobile industry as high as 25% to November, citing that Europe’s sway over American cars is a “national security threat” to the American economy. Europe’s auto industry holds crucial portion of Europe’s economy accounting for 10% of Europe’s global exports, employing 14 million Europeans, and generating 7% of Europe’s total GDP. Thus, America’s auto tariffs could also greatly affect the European economy. Despite Trump’s claims, many are detesting his actions. Industry group Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers claims that implementing “auto tariffs” in Europe would be a mistake and could entail significant negative consequences. With his deadline coming up soon, many are questioning whether or not Trump will actually move forward with his threat.
There is little consensus over Trump’s ultimate goal in the trade war. Given the popular perception that Europe is an American ally, many analysts believe that Trump no longer has the political capital to implement auto-tariffs if he wants to win the 2020 elections as both Republicans and Democrats have pushed Trump away from auto tariffs. Instead, David Hauner from Bank of America Merrill Lynch indicated Trump may only be threatening a large sector of Europe’s economy so that he may gain leverage over current trade talks in Europe. More specifically, Trump may be holding the looming threat of auto tariffs over their heads in order to coerce Europe into accepting more agricultural imports such as beef which would appease his political base of farmers for the 2020 elections. Other analysts predict that Trump will actually implement these auto tariffs. Citing Trump’s his desire to slash his trade deficit with Europe, Economist Hans Buchard suspects that the President’s method of receiving votes is through his confrontational approach to foreign countries. Thus, implementing auto tariffs on Europe could serve as an example for other countries. In fact, many politicians believe that Trump won his 2016 election by portraying China as a massive foreign threat, a strategy that got him the support of his blue collar base. Painting Europe in this light could fortify the loyalty of Trump’s Rust Belt supporters as he enters his 2020 campaign season.
Overall, Trump’s trade war with Europe could provoke massive consequences on the global economy. In a worst-case scenario, analysts from Bank of America Merrill Lynch predict that economic growth could fall from 2.2% to 1.2% as the price of American vehicles, both domestic and imported, could be raised anywhere from 2,000 dollars to 7,000 dollars making the cost of travel much more expensive. Contrary to popular belief, this lesser known trade war may even cause harms even worse than the Chinese-US Trade war. While the total trade between Europe and the United States is worth 1.2 trillion dollars, Chinese-American trade is only worth 737 billion dollars; thus continuing Trump’s tit-for-tat approach with Europe spark an economic catastrophe worse than one with China. Unfortunately, with the last recession of 2008 still burned into the minds of many pushing over 64 million people around the world into poverty, many are worried about the economic consequences of the US-EU trade war. However, there are also greater geopolitical consequences at hand. In contrast to many other nations, China could easily be the greatest winner of the EU-US trade war, as a disruption of the American-European alliance could prompt Europe to shift eastward for a stronger relationship. With China and Europe already working on a free-trade agreement, promises to collaborate on China’s Belt Road Initiative, and greater collaboration on environmental issues (all of which are opposed by the United States), pushing Europe toward China could permanently damage Transatlantic relations.
In conclusion, the EU-US trade war is a conflict that must be monitored in 2019, as just a single tweet can evoke century-lasting changes on the world.