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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

7 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.