Donald Trump sent contradictory signals about his trade war with China, on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. He ended the day escalating threats of higher tariffs while he remained isolated from other world leaders on a strategy that has shaken the global economy.
The day after Trump defended his authority to order American companies out of China, he started the day, Sunday, by stating he was having “second thoughts” about more levies on Chinese goods. He reversed himself again within hours of stating he was having second thoughts and said he regretted not raising tariffs higher.
According to The New York Times, Trump’s “rhetorical whipsaw” came during “tense but cordial” meetings in Biarritz, France. The meetings have added new uncertainties into Trump’s efforts to try and change Chinese behavior by “gambling on the fate of hundreds of billions of dollars in products that flow between two countries.”
Trump believes his allies respect the trade war. Concerning China, the president stated, “What they’ve done is outrageous, that presidents and administrations allowed them to get away with taking hundreds of billions of dollars out every year.”
United States’ allies have agreed for a while that China’s policies are a threat, however, there is little consensus behind Trump’s approach. Leaders are nervous that he is going to send the global economy into a recession. This would hurt already trembling European economies.
Instead of using the G-7 Summit to create a united front against China’s trade policies, Trump isolated himself by letting it be known, he will not back down.
Leaders from some of the world’s leading democracies were delicate with Trump, hoping to avoid any angry outbursts. Several leaders challenged Trump publicly on the issue of trade, including Russia and North Korea.
Even Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who understands and relates to the American president better than other leaders, publicly chided him about the value of free trade and the dangers of an extended confrontation.
Johnson told Trump that Britain favors trade peace. He stated, “The U.K. has profited massively in the last 200 years from free trade and that’s what we want to see.”
In the United States, Democrats are critical of Trump’s approach to refuse to work with allies in a concerted approach to change China’s policies.
Thus far, China has been able to avoid some of Trump’s tariffs by buying from other countries, however, the trade war has impacted allies, such as Germany, where the economy has fallen into a slump.
Before he arrived in Biarritz, Trump tweeted angrily that he was going to raise tariffs on Chinese goods in response to Chinese retaliation for earlier levies. Nevertheless, by Sunday morning, he seemed to be wavering about imposing the additional levies. When he landed in France, Trump wanted to declare an emergency to order American companies out of China. Additionally, he called Chinese leader Xi Jinping an enemy.
Monday, Trump tweeted: “Great respect for the fact that President Xi & his Representatives want ‘calm resolution.’ So impressed that they are willing to come out & state the facts so accurately.”
On Friday, Reuters reported that China’s Vice Premier Liu stated, “We are willing to resolve the issue through consultations and cooperation in a calm attitude and resolutely oppose the escalation of the trade war.”
CNBC reported that at the G-7 Summit, Trump stated: “China called last night out top trade people and said ‘let’s get back to the table’ so we will be getting back to the table and I think they want to do something. They have been hurt very badly but they understand this is the right thing to do and I have great respect for it. This is a very positive development for the world.”
However, China disputed Trump’s claim. Chief of China’s Global Times, Hu Xijin tweeted: “Based on what I know, Chinese and US top negotiators didn’t hold phone talks in recent days. The two sides have been keeping contact at technical level, it doesn’t have significance that President Trump suggested China didn’t change its position. Chine won’t cave to US pressure.”
By Jeanette Smith
The New York Times: Trump Offers Contradictory Signals on China Trade War
Market Realist: US-China Trade War: Calm Resolution May Not Be Close
The New York Times: At G7 Summit, Trump Pivots Again on Trade War, Saying China Wants a Deal
Image Courtesy of Matt Johnson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License