With the invocation of Article 50, casual overseas observers of the process toward Brexit must now become season ticket holders – tuned in to every nuance for clues as to how it will affect them and their particular countries. Nonetheless, it also must join the queue for the attentions of the rest of the world.

The fact is, when you couple uncertainty over Brexit with uncertainty over the U.S. government’s approach to trade, you inevitably must realize that a clear path forward on international trade is not likely for some time. A few bits of evidence:

  • The years-long effort to develop a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), which was already upset by the Brexit vote, is now “in the freezer” per EU Trade Commissioner Cecillia Malmstrom
  • The new U.S. government has already blown up the Pacific equivalent (TPP)
  • It is threatening to upend the nearly quarter century old Canada-US-Mexico pact known as NAFTA

At this writing, that is all talk but with the promises of the President and the confirmation of the rather protectionist U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has been granted an unprecedented degree of power over trade policy, significant rejiggering of that deal seems inevitable.

Now, lest we become too U.S. focused in a newsletter about Brexit, the point of this discussion is simply to say that Brexit may have been singularly disruptive, but in the present day global context it is a disruptive factor as opposed to the disruptive factor.

Context matters. Beyond the U.S. and the impact of last year’s elections, there is the current European election cycle and the possibility that other countries may follow the UK/US in the shift toward nationalism. Then there is the world’s largest trading behemoth, the Chinese, where leaders are assuredly and furiously assessing all of this turmoil and seeking the most profitable way to insert themselves.

One could go on and, by doing so, further hone the point. But, my mission, in the last 300 and some odd words was to provide an overseas assessment of the impact Brexit might have on international trade – a difficult mission in any season. In this one, with political and policy turmoil being the rule rather than the exception, it is a mission that…well…I’ll refer you back to the headline.