Sunday, December 22, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to milk "phase one" of his trade war concessions with China a little more.

Trump had an unusually media-quiet day today. He found time to go to his luxury Florida golf club—twice—but his total number of tweets was sharply down from the triple-digit daily numbers he posted in recent weeks. Some of this may have been the effect of the holiday weekend—Trump himself is taking at least two weeks off—but it's also likely that he was trying to duck direct comment on the latest Ukraine blackmail revelations.

He was, however, willing to tweet about the ongoing trade war with China. There haven't been any new developments since Trump announced earlier this month that, in effect, he would stop escalating the trade war, which he branded as "phase one" in undoing the damage. But today Trump tweeted out links to articles about China's part in that "phase" anyway.

It's not clear if Trump read the articles—but then it's rarely clear if Trump knows how tariffs work at all. What the articles actually report is that China's annual adjustments to its tariff lists were unrelated to the trade war—except that countries that aren't the United States are getting much better rates. As the Bloomberg News article Trump linked to noted:

China’s leadership has reiterated its intention to further lower duties in order to meet specific domestic consumption needs. Goods from New Zealand, Peru, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Iceland, Singapore, Australia, South Korea, Georgia, Chile and Pakistan will have even lower levies under the re-negotiated free trade agreements with China, according to the statement.

It's normal for countries to make periodic adjustments to their import taxes in response to basic needs—or for political purposes. China's totalitarian government is largely immune to political pressures, but Trump hastily cut tariffs on China earlier this year, before any "deal" was reached, in an attempt to goose holiday sales numbers.

Why should I care about this?

  • A president who knows what his own tariff policy is would not have linked to these articles, unless he thought Americans were too stupid to understand them.