“This is the way the trade war ends. Not with a bang but with empty bombast.
According to multiple news organizations, the U.S. and China are close to a deal that would effectively end trade hostilities. Under the reported deal, America would remove most of the tariffs it imposed last year. China, for its part, would end its retaliatory tariffs, make some changes to its investment and competition policies and direct state enterprises to buy specified amounts of U.S. agricultural and energy products.
The Trump administration will, of course, trumpet the deal as a triumph. In reality, however, it’s much ado about nothing much.
As described, the deal would do little to address real complaints about Chinese policy, which mainly involve China’s systematic expropriation of intellectual property. Nor would it do much to address Donald Trump’s pet although misguided peeve, the imbalance in U.S.-China trade. Basically, Trump will have backed down.
If this is the story, it will repeat what we saw on the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump denounced as the “worst trade deal ever made.” In the end, what Trump negotiated — the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement, or U.S.M.C.A. — was very similar to the previous status quo. Trade experts I know, when not referring to it as the Village People agreement, call it “Nafta 0.8”: fundamentally the same as Nafta, but a bit worse.”
Archive for Trade and Trade Policy
Trump Undermines Top Trade Adviser as He Pushes for China Deal – By Ana Swanson – The New York Times
WASHINGTON — President Trump has signaled that he is moving toward peace with China in a trade standoff that has rattled markets and businesses globally. But as he backs off his threat to impose higher tariffs, the president’s relationship with his own trade negotiator is now showing signs of strain.
The situation has left Mr. Trump’s trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, who is both an ardent supporter of the president and a longtime China critic, in an uncomfortable bind. While broad tariffs on Chinese imports brought Beijing to the negotiating table, Mr. Trump has grown impatient with the talks, and a consensus is growing in Washington that Mr. Trump will ultimately accept a weak deal.
And despite the lack of a transformative arrangement he once promised, the president has begun dangling the idea of a “signing summit” with President Xi Jinping of China at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Florida resort. As a result, the president is undermining Mr. Lighthizer as he tries to pressure China to make big concessions.
“Trump is certainly doing his negotiating team no favors by undercutting them in public,” said Eswar Prasad, a trade expert and the former head of the China division of the International Monetary Fund. The president’s actions, he said, “weakens rather than fortifies Lighthizer’s leverage.””
“As China and the United States engage in high-level negotiations over a possible trade deal, it’s puzzling to see what’s been left off the table: the Chinese internet market. China blocks or hinders nearly every important foreign competitor online, including Google, Facebook, Wikipedia in Chinese, Pinterest, Line (the major Japanese messaging company), Reddit and The New York Times. Even Peppa Pig, a British cartoon character and internet video sensation, has been censored on and off; an editorial in the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper once warned that she could “destroy children’s youth.”
China has long defended its censorship as a political matter, a legitimate attempt to protect citizens from what the government regards as “harmful information,” including material that “spreads unhealthy lifestyles and pop culture.” But you don’t need to be a trade theorist to realize that the censorship is also an extremely effective barrier to international trade. The global internet economy is worth at least $8 trillion and growing, yet the Trump administration has focused chiefly on manufacturing, technology transfers and agriculture, and does not seem to have pressed for concessions on this issue.
Sheltered from American, Japanese and European competition, Chinese internet businesses have grown enormously over the past decade. Nine of the world’s 20 largest internet firms, by market value, are now Chinese. Some of this growth reflects the skill and innovation of Chinese engineers, a vibrant start-up culture and the success of Chinese business in catering to local tastes. But it’s hard to believe that this has been unaided by censorship.
And the barriers to foreign competition have more than just economic effects. Without any better options, Chinese users are forced to put up with companies like Tencent, which owns the private messaging app WeChat, and the online payment company Ant Financial, whose privacy violations are, amazingly, even more troubling than those of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. By tolerating Chinese censorship, the United States encourages other countries to do the same.”
“Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are a bit alike, and that presents a danger to the global order.
The American and Chinese leaders are both impetuous, authoritarian and overconfident nationalists, and each appears to underestimate the other side’s capacity to inflict pain. This dangerous symmetry leaves the two sides hurtling toward each other.
The 10 percent tariffs already imposed in the trade war are scheduled to rise to 25 percent in January, but there’s also a broader confrontation emerging.
Trump and Xi may well be able to reach a cease-fire in their trade war when they meet for the Group of 20 in two weeks. Even if a deal is reached, though, it may be only a temporary respite that doesn’t alter the dynamic of two great nations increasingly on a collision course.”
David Lindsay: Thank you Nicholas Kristof. Yes, and here are the top comments, which I endorsed:
“With the arrival in Beijing this week of America’s top trade negotiators, you might think that the U.S. and China are about to enter high-level talks to avoid a trade war and that this is a story for the business pages. Think again. This is one for the history books.
Five days of meetings in Beijing with Chinese, U.S. and European government officials and business leaders made it crystal clear to me that what’s going on right now is nothing less than a struggle to redefine the rules governing the economic and power relations of the world’s oldest and newest superpowers — America and China. This is not a trade tiff.
“This is a defining moment for U.S.-China relations,” said Ruan Zongze, executive vice president of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s research institute. “This is about a lot more than trade and tariffs. This is about the future.”
In one corner stand President Trump and his team of China trade hard-liners, whose instinct is basically right: This is a fight worth having now, before it is too late, before China gets too big.”
Yes, Sir. I agree.
Here are two comments I recommended:
Trump Hits China With Trade Measures as White House Exempts Allies From Tariffs – The New York Times
“President Trump said he would impose about $60 billion worth of annual tariffs on Chinese imports on Thursday as the White House moved to punish China for what it says is a pattern of co-opting American technology and trade secrets and robbing companies of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.
The measures come as the White House grants a long list of exemptions to American allies from steel and aluminum tariffs that go into effect on Friday, including the European Union, which has lobbied aggressively and publicly for relief from the trade action.
“The word that I want to use is reciprocal,” Mr. Trump said in announcing the tariffs in the Diplomatic Room of the White House. “If they charge us, we charge them the same thing.”
The China tariffs are his strongest trade action yet against a country he has branded an “economic enemy.” They fulfill one of his core campaign pledges, to demand more reciprocal deals with trading partners around the world.
But coupled with the administration’s decision to exempt the European Union, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico from the tariffs on cheap metals, the action demonstrates how much Mr. Trump’s nationalist trade agenda is really targeted at a single country: China.”
“The tariffs, which the United States trade representative will publish within 15 days, will target 1,300 lines of Chinese goods — everything from shoes and clothing to electronics, administration officials said.” I understood the the argument for steel and aluminum, but what is the argument for these other 1,298 products? All the mainstream economists that I learn from, say that tariffs are toxic. The Chinese are famous for their intelligence, work ethic and pride. If they feel insulted, and have lost face, they will be forced to retaliate. Can Boeing stay on top without one of their biggest customers? Or did their stock price just drop almost 4% for no reason?
A five or ten percent tariff on just Chinese steel and aluminum might have been a more prudent test of the waters. Rejoining the TPP asap, would probably do more for the US economy and economic defense, than the steel tariff. The Chinese play like a people at war with the West, and they probably are, since they still have a score to settle over the bombardment and destruction of the Spring Palace, and its mulitude of treasure buildings and libraries, in the 1840’s, during the ugly opium war. The civilization that invented, paper, writing, gunpowder, history and literature, should be courted with carots as well as with sticks.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at here and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com
Thomas Friedman is great in this column. He writes that China is a big problem, but the Trump steel tariff hurts our allies and not China. Then:
“So what would a smart American president do? First, he’d sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord. TPP eliminated as many as 18,000 tariffs on U.S. exports with the most dynamic economies in the Pacific and created a 12-nation trading bloc headed by the U.S. and focused on protecting what we do best — high-value-added manufacturing and intellectual property. Alas, Trump tore it up without reading it — one of the stupidest foreign policy acts ever. We Brexited Asia! China was not in TPP. It was a coalition built, in part, to pressure Beijing into fairer market access, by our rules. Trump just gave it up for free.
Once a smart president restored participation in TPP, he’d start secret trade talks with the Chinese — no need for anyone to lose face — and tell Beijing: “Since you like your trade rules so much, we’re going to copy them for your companies operating in America: 25 percent tariffs on your cars, and your tech companies that open here have to joint venture and share intellectual property with a U.S. partner — and store all their data on U.S. servers.” “
SANTIAGO, Chile — A trade pact originally conceived by the United States to counter China’s growing economic might in Asia now has a new target: President Trump’s embrace of protectionism.
A group of 11 nations — including major United States allies like Japan, Canada and Australia — signed a broad trade deal on Thursday that challenges Mr. Trump’s view of trade as a zero-sum game filled with winners and losers.
Covering 500 million people on either side of the Pacific Ocean, the pact represents a new vision for global trade as the United States threatens to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on even its closest friends and neighbors.
Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from an earlier version of the agreement, then known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a year ago as one of his first acts in office. It will undeniably be weaker without the participation of the world’s biggest economy, but the resuscitated deal serves as a powerful sign of how countries that have previously counted on American leadership are now forging ahead without it.
“Only free trade will contribute to inclusive growth of the world economy,” Taro Kono, Japan’s foreign minister, told a group of ministers from Southeast Asian countries in Tokyo on Thursday. “Protectionism isn’t a solution.”
“While American beef farmers will have to pay 38.5 percent tariffs in Japan, for example, members like Australia, New Zealand and Canada will not.”
I’m sure that most in the beef industry voted for Trump. Well guess what, More expensive steel is going to mean your costs are going up and the tariffs mean your income is going down. America First? Much more of this and it will be America Last.
WASHINGTON — President Trump is arriving at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to explain his “America First” approach at a moment when the world is moving ahead with a trade agenda that no longer revolves around the United States. The world marked a turning point in global trade on Tuesday, when 11 countries agreed to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, announcing they had finalized the pact and expected to sign a deal on March 8 in Chile. It was a remarkable moment for a beleaguered agreemen
David Lindsay: Yes. Donald Trump, or Twitter Drumpf as I like to call him, is damaging the US in world trade, and no where more than in Asia, with his pulling out of the Transpacific Parntership.
Here is the top comment so far, I endorse:
“America First” is a tag line not unlike “Make America Great Again”. They both appeal to our base instincts and are effective in stirring our faux “American Pride”, but that’s as far as they go. Questions need to be asked. What do we want to be first and great at; healthcare, coal production, number of millionaires, people in poverty, a healthy economy, number of nuclear warheads, deaths by gun violence, having the most stuff, …..? Do we have to be great or can we get along being respected, fair, and truthful? First and great mean very different things to many different people. Can one be truly great when so many are left behind? Ask the questions. Give truthful answers. That would be great.
“HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — Do Thi Minh Hanh, a labor activist, had grown accustomed to being beaten, hospitalized and jailed for her work in a country where independent trade unions are banned.
So it gave her hope for a reprieve when Vietnam reached a trade deal with the United States and other countries that called for its members to bolster workers’ rights and protect independent unions.
That hope fizzled in late January, when President Trump pulled the United States out of the trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with the stroke of a pen.“
The Vietnamese government will use this as an excuse to suppress the labor movement,” Ms. Hanh said. “They never wanted to have independent unions in Vietnam.” “