Is 2018 the Year Trump Takes Action on Trade?

Yesterday, here at this blog we examined the looming decisions on washing machine and solar panel tariffs – and we’ve talked plenty about the outstanding decisions the president has to make on steel and aluminum tariffs.

Well, good news for people who like (possibly?) radical trade news:

With President Donald Trump calling the shots, 2018 is gonna be the year the trade wars (maybe?) heat up. And the “trade wars” will in large part feature the bilateral trade relationship with China.  

This is the takeaway from many major media outlets.

The Financial Times made note of it last month in a profile of the U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer. “If the Trump administration launches a trade war with China Mr Lighthizer will be the general leading the assault,” it said.

Business Insider made note of it just the other day. It saw the decision by a U.S. government body (which reviews foreign investments on national security grounds) to reject Alibaba’s purchase of a U.S. money transfer company as, well, portentous.

“Talk to anyone in Washington working on trade and they'll tell you that this stuff — resurrecting arcane, aggressive trade laws and and ignoring the World Trade Organization whenever convenient — makes Trump happy,” reported Linette Lopez. “He genuinely believes in disrupting the global trade order and punishing China.”

(The “ignoring the World Trade Organization whenever convenient” the reporter refers to is China’s demand to be granted market-economy status under WTO rules. The White House isn’t ignoring the WTO, it’s rather correctly ignoring China’s demand for something it doesn’t deserve.)

And the New York Times is noting it, too. It recently published a rundown of all of the of the individual decisions coming down the pike. The washing machines, solar cells, the steel and aluminum … all of it.

What’s most notable, reporter Ana Swanson writes, is how it all comes down to Trump:

The United States has numerous other routine trade cases in the works — like Boeing’s fight with the Canadian plane maker Bombardier. But the ones heading to Mr. Trump’s desk are unique because they fall to the president alone, rather than career bureaucrats, to decide.

China has made some moves to address the concerns of what they see as a mercurial American president. They gave him some easy trade wins when he met Chinese President Xi Jinping in April; they flatter the friggin’ heck out of him and his family; and – this just in – they’re announcing new protections for intellectual property.

Will that work? It’s anyone’s guess. While Trump reportedly truly thinks the United States should get tough on trade, important members of his cabinet disagree with him. And! None of these decisions – on washing machines, solar panels, steel, aluminum, IP – have been made yet.

So what’s he gonna do? That's the $64,000 question.


Reposted from AAM

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