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“Make America Great Again” may not quite be poetry, but the slogan powered a successful campaign. Now that Donald Trump is in government, his answers to US problems are far from prosaic. They may, in fact, turn out to be not just unusual but downright dangerous.

Take trade. Martin Wolf writes in this week’s column that Mr Trump’s protectionism turns out to be more than mere rhetoric. He is imposing tariffs on steel and aluminium. Martin warns this “may turn out to be the beginning of the end of the rules-governed multilateral trading order that the US itself created”.

The action will target all users of steel and aluminium. The Trump administration is encouraging use of the WTO’s national security loophole. And there is likely to be retaliation against the US in other areas.

Martin, of course, disputes Mr Trump’s analysis of the problem, a trade deficit wrongly blamed on trade policy. But he reserves most of his scorn for the president’s protectionist stance: product of a characteristic blend of self-pity and bombast.

When a choice is not freely made?
Sarah O’Connor explores the latest attempts to investigate the gender pay gap. First, gathering the data, and then analysing it for clues. It would help, she argues, to interrogate the idea that women could simply choose to move up the earnings scale, as a study of Uber drivers suggests.

Plight of the Kurds
David Gardner on Turkey’s decision to open a new front against Kurdish forces in North West Syria. The military campaign is popular inside Turkey, and could help President Erdogan if he calls an early election. But it further alienates Nato allies, and may put an end to the idea of a more powerful Turkey that has learned to work with the Kurds.

The mini-Merkels
Frederick Studemann introduces a new cast of characters in the German coalition government. What makes Angela Merkel’s fourth administration different (apart from the fact it may well be her last)? There will be near gender parity. Both main parties have split portfolios equally between men and women.

The spectre of Russian espionage
Gideon Rachman argues that the case of a Russian former intelligence officer who spied for Britain and his daughter, apparently poisoned, poses a problem for the UK government. Theresa May promised in November that Britain “will do what is necessary to protect ourselves”. Since the Litvinenko murder and official inquiry, the UK has fought shy of disrupting geopolitics by retaliating too dramatically or investigating other suspicious events too thoroughly. This may not be sustainable.

Best of the rest

The meaning of Corbynism — George Eaton and others in The New Statesman

Today’s eerie echoes of the Civil War — Manisha Sinha in the New York Review of Books

Why are Democrats helping Trump dismantle Dodd-Frank? — Mike Konczal in The New York Times

The male glance: how we fail to take women’s stories seriously — Lili Loofbourow in The Guardian

What you’ve been saying

The US already enjoys a huge trade advantage — letter from Chris Kniel

Contrary to what most think, we in the US enjoy an enormous competitive trade advantage. We enjoy the US dollar (at least so far) as the world’s reserve currency. We can trade German BMWs or Saudi oil for paper promises — printed dollars, derivatives, cash equivalents, and the like. Furthermore, decades ago, Henry Kissinger negotiated that all Saudi oil must be paid for in US dollars, thus creating an enormous worldwide demand for US dollars. It’s a great scheme backed by the Federal Reserve, big banks, the CIA and the military. To the well-informed reader, none of this is news. But the more serious concern should be just how much longer the rest of the world will continue to play the game before demanding its own level playing field. And if or when that happens, what will be the implications for the US? Watching China’s long-term financial moves, and Russia’s energy positioning and recent sabre-rattling, one might conclude: not much longer.

Confessions of an academic dinosaur — letter from Harvey Clark Greisman in reponse to Universities and the tyranny of anonymous feedback

Just prior to my retirement from academe about 10 years ago, I received an anonymous online evaluation which read: “What a dinosaur! Enrol in his course only if you’re contemplating suicide!” Amused, I shared the post with some colleagues...one man from the economics department said: “Congratulations and keep up the good work. A commentary like this is proof you’re doing your job.”

Comment from European_Observer on The emerging mismatch of Brexit detail and UK rhetoric

One aspect that matters in terms of the UK-EU in the long run is the nature of the EU. The Brexiters have long over-rated the importance of the Commission. Rather than being in the hands of “an unelected bureaucracy”, power in the EU resides in the national governments, who agree to pool sovereignty to simplify how day to day life is organised and regulated. Most of the time this distinction between the Eurocrats and their 28 (soon 27) political masters is not terribly significant. But it does matter when the countries decide to rewrite the rules on the run, as sometimes happens at summits of the Council. Potentially very significant changes can be made in a process of horse-trading and fudge. Given that EU spending is concentrated in certain sectors, notably farm subsidies and regional aid, there could be parts of the UK economy as well as specific regions that are especially vulnerable. The current face-off between the UK and Ireland, with the EU so far strongly supportive of its member state, is a taste of what could happen if the UK finds itself in a bilateral bind with any other member.

Today’s opinion

FT View: The GKN debate reflects loss of trust in markets Free enterprise depends on a public mandate. It is not guaranteed

FT View: Bureaucratic Brussels manoeuvres in the dark Martin Selmayr’s promotion to EU secretary-general needs scrutiny

Saudi Arabia cannot achieve its ambitious reforms alone As the kingdom’s reliance on oil wanes, overseas companies can benefit

Women make the difference in Angela Merkel’s new cabinet Most of the frontrunners to succeed the German chancellor are female

Earning more is never a simple choice for women Employers puzzled by the gender pay gap should be asking different questions

Turkey alienates stateless Kurds to its own detriment Ankara’s aggression towards its ethnic minority strengthens the arc of Iranian power

Should the US ease regulation on its big banks? FT readers respond You weighed in on the debate over the reform of the Dodd-Frank law

Instant Insight: Spectre of Russian interference in UK returns with Skripal spy case It will be hard for Britain to brush the ex-agent’s possible poisoning under the carpet

Free Lunch: A mechanism for frictionless trade Institutions exist to manage UK alignment with the EU after Brexit

Donald Trump’s trade follies presage more protectionism Everybody, even the US, would be damaged by the Balkanisation of the global economy

Opinion today: Europe’s Brexit choices European observers routinely bemoan the UK’s persistent evasion of the hard choices that Brexit forces upon it

FT Alphaville: Someone is wrong on the internet, government employee pensions and passive investing edition

Business can learn innovation lessons from Pentagon’s secret lab Neither micro-managing nor leaving researchers alone produces the best results

The Exchange: The long-term effect of Trump’s three-pronged boost Can the long-term promise of the interventions match the short-term attractions?

FT View

FT View: The GKN debate reflects loss of trust in markets Free enterprise depends on a public mandate. It is not guaranteed

FT View: Bureaucratic Brussels manoeuvres in the dark Martin Selmayr’s promotion to EU secretary-general needs scrutiny

The Big Read

The Big Read: Emerging markets under pressure as debt mounts With return of inflation, rate increases and possible dollar strengthening, can they repay their rising debts?

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