Last week, President Trump and the Red Chinese appeared to be making major progress towards a trade deal. However, Trump’s team says that the Chinese have reneged on commitments made during the negotiations.
Consequently, the administration is prepared to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. It plans to announce the increases on Friday morning.
The New York Times’ story on this development is full of speculation about Trump’s motives. The Times calls Trump’s decision “a political calculation that staying tough on China will be a better proposition in the 2020 campaign” than entering into the deal many expected to be finalized. It adds that Trump is confident “his trade policies are bolstering the American economy, without any downside.”
I assume that Trump has examined both the political and economic implications of increasing tariffs on Chinese goods. However, the Times presents no reason to believe that, at root, Trump’s decision is other than what his advisers say it is — a response to bad faith negotiating by China.
China is notorious for its bad faith in international relations, so we shouldn’t be surprised that it apparently has reneged on commitments made during negotiations. The proper response is to do exactly what Trump plans to do — inflict more pain on China.
But Trump is leaving the door open for China to return to the table if it’s willing to behave like a proper negotiating partner. The Times reports:
A final trade agreement could still be reached. Mr. Lighthizer [Trump’s top trade adviser] and Mr. Mnuchin [the Treasury Secretary] said on Monday that the Chinese delegation had not canceled travel plans to come to Washington on Thursday and Friday for negotiations.
“We’re not breaking up talks at this point,” Mr. Lighthizer said.
The Red Chinese are used to having their way, and used to dealing with an America that isn’t willing to make short term sacrifices to deny them their way. Trump has decided to reverse this pattern.
It was never going to be easy, and Trump deserves great credit for undertaking this course and for sticking to it.