President Donald Trump sent a message to the world in the early hours of the morning. When it comes to trade, countries will have to choose either the United States or Iran. For most companies and countries, the choice is obvious. The United States offers a much more lucrative market. On Twitter, Trump wrote:
The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2018
While the United States has backed out of the nuclear accords reached under the Obama administration, the European Union, Russia, and China have been trying to soldier on. If Iran is able to trade with these major countries, it’ll greatly reduce the effectiveness of the U.S. sanctions.
Now, President Trump is playing a bit of hardball. If Trump were to slap sanctions on Iran’s trading partners, it could cause irreparable harm. China exported just over $500 billion worth of goods and services to the United States in 2017. The European Union sent about $375 billion. Russia and the U.S. engage in far less trade.
President Trump has proven to be one of the more combative presidents in modern history. However, the saber rattling and threats directed at trading partners mark an even more aggressive than usual stance.
Sanctions are a murky area in American law. At times, Presidents have installed sanctions without Congressional approval, while at other times Congress has put bills into law. It’s unclear if Trump would be able to effectively sanction the European Union and other trading partners without Congressional approval, which he’s unlikely to get.
The policies and procedures are complex. Presidents have reached international agreements without Congressional approval. Obama’s nuclear accords are a perfect example. At the same time, once Congress puts something into law, it becomes the law of the land.
Efforts to sanction the European Union, Russia, and China are not without risk. President Trump’s confrontational methods have drawn the ire of the EU and China. It’s possible that both could take punitive measures against the United States. While the global economy is humming, a major geopolitical crisis could quickly derail progress.