Illustration: Sarah Grillo, Rebecca Zisser/Axios

No single shot in President Trump’s trade wars matters much. But the wild, simultaneous spraying of shots at a half dozen U.S. allies — unprecedented in modern America — is changing the balance of trade politics and power before our eyes.

President Trump didn't start a single trade war — he started at least four, all by choice:

Why it matters: Trump is challenging the global order, and well-established alliances, more than any U.S. president in living memory. George W. Bush alienated Europe with the Iraq war, but that was a single issue. Trump is shaking the foundations and structures of the post-World War II order.

  • The rupture also helps Vladimir Putin, who has long sought to split the West. "There is no evidence that Mr. Putin is dictating American policy," writes Susan Rice, President Obama's national security adviser. "But it’s hard to imagine how he could do much better, even if he were.”

The downside: China is charging into the vacuum left by Trump. Not only is Xi Jinping cutting deals with bruised U.S. allies, he’s benefiting from the fracture of the U.S.-Europe alliance that was created to keep China in check.

  • The upside: China has exploited the U.S. by stealing technology and radically tilting the playing field to companies with ties to the Beijing government. So the possibility of more favorable terms for the U.S. remains. 

Still, Trump's trade tirade has upended decades of trade norms:

  • Relations with American allies such as Germany, France, Canada and Mexico are bad — and getting worse — largely over trade. 
  • The N.Y. Times' Peter Baker writes on today's front page: "In the 24 hours before heading to Quebec, Mr. Trump attacked Canada on Twitter six times for 'unfair' trade practices and threw in a few jabs at France and the European Union for good measure."
  • Trump redefined a national security threat in a dangerous way by using that as the justification to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum and to threaten tariffs on imported cars. Republican lawmakers complain that he could alienate military allies and raise prices for U.S. consumers. It’s a precedent other nations could exploit. 
  • Germany, Japan and others who want to do business with America may find no other choice than to cozy up with the Chinese. 
  • This started with Trump bolting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which promotes trade among the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim nations (Asia and the Americas), and culminated this week with furious European leaders threatening more deals sans America. 

Be smart: It's possible that all of these wars get resolved. But with each passing day, Trump seems less likely to bend and allies seem more likely to bolt alliance with America for deals with each other and China. 

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 1 min ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 a.m. ET: 12,739,269 — Total deaths: 565,704 — Total recoveries — 7,021,460Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 a.m. ET: 3,247,782 — Total deaths: 134,815 — Total recoveries: 995,576 — Total tested: 39,553,395Map.
  3. Politics: Trump wears face mask in public for first time.
  4. Public health: Fauci hasn't briefed Trump on the coronavirus pandemic in at least two months — We're losing the war on the coronavirus.
  5. States: Louisiana governor issues face mask mandate.
  6. World: India reimposes lockdowns as coronavirus cases soar.

Biden's doctrine: Erase Trump, re-embrace the world

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto, and Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Foreign policy will look drastically different if Joe Biden defeats President Trump in November, advisers tell Axios — starting with a Day One announcement that the U.S. is re-entering the Paris Climate Agreement and new global coordination of the coronavirus response.

The big picture: If Trump's presidency started the "America First" era of withdrawal from global alliances, Biden's team says his presidency would be the opposite: a re-engagement with the world and an effort to rebuild those alliances — fast.

Robert Mueller speaks out on Roger Stone commutation

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill on Wednesday July 24, 2019. Photo: The Washington Post / Contributor

Former special counsel Robert Mueller responded to claims from President Trump and his allies that Roger Stone was a "victim" in the Justice Department's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, writing in a Washington Post op-ed published Saturday: "He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so."

Why it matters: The rare public comments by Mueller come on the heels of President Trump's move to commute the sentence of his longtime associate, who was sentenced in February to 40 months in prison for crimes stemming from the Russia investigation. The controversial decision brought an abrupt end to the possibility of Stone spending time behind bars.