While GE and some other firms may already be adapting, a new trade order for the planet certainly may not be what every business wants right now, and it may not even be desirable for global trade.
“Companies will quietly admit that (the North American Free Trade Agreement) is now 25 years old and needs updating. Of course, if we’re updating or amending NAFTA, people get nervous,” said David Spooner, partner in the corporate department and co-chair of the international trade practice group at Barnes Thornburg.
Trump has called for an overhaul, and even threatened U.S. withdrawal, from major trade bodies such as the World Trade Organization, or WTO. On Monday, he reiterated a first-day priority of pulling out of a deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.
The “WTO has played an important role in the world on creating a rules-based system,” Spooner said. There are “tremendous damaging effects” if the organization doesn’t exist. But he also said the 21-year-old organization has become “dysfunctional.”
Critics say the WTO overly favors large countries and businesses, and that it’s inefficient. Negotiations on a Doha Development Agenda, which included discussion of intellectual property, have made slow progress since talks began in 2001. A WTO spokesperson was not available for comment to CNBC.
In a world of small businesses selling online, Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba, has called for an alternative to the WTO with a World e-Trade Platform that would set international rules eliminating barriers to e-commerce.
“Right now, with the turmoil of a major transition for a new government, most of the focus is in the macro picture for trade, how it will work – not much on e-commerce,” said Heather Conley, senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Those issues “just have to be focused, prioritized.”