Friday, April 6, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He lashed out at the WTO.

In a tweet this morning, Trump attacked the World Trade Organization, which is the international organization that governs trade among its member nations (including the United States), saying it was "unfair" to the United States.

The reason for the attack has to do with Trump's third consecutive escalation of his trade war with China. Yesterday, Trump reacted to China's threatened imposition of $50 billion in retaliatory tariffs by re-retaliating with $100 billion worth of his own. (Escalating punitive tariffs is the definition of a trade war, but Trump continues to insist the US is not in one.)

China responded not with another round of tariffs, but with a "request for consultation." This is the first step in a formal process that will ultimately allow China to request that the WTO sanction the United States for violating the rules of the trade treaty between member nations. Analysts say that China would have a strong case, since Trump's original steel and aluminum tariffs are not only globally unpopular but not a genuine matter of national security as he claimed.

If the WTO ruled against Trump, the United States would lose protection against other countries that wanted to impose punitive tariffs on it. 

Trump often tries to "work the ref" when he is afraid a legal judgment will go against him. He said that the judge in his Trump University fraud suit was biased because he was "a Mexican." He threatened to eliminate an entire federal court district when it issued rulings he didn't like during his Muslim ban fiasco, and claimed another federal judge was putting "thousands of lives at risk" when he ruled against Trump in a budget dispute.

Stock markets continued their months-long slide today on the news, erasing gains all the way back to last November.

So what?

  • Bad things happen when a president genuinely believes there will never be any consequences to his actions.
  • A president who can't or won't learn the first thing about international trade is too incompetent to be in charge of the United States economy.
  • It's bad if a president sees Americans losing billions of dollars in wealth and hundreds of thousands of jobs as "a little pain."