Trade

Trump Privately Blames Trade Rep. For His Own Failings

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Trump has asked his lackeys to achieve the impossible in trade negotiations with China and, not surprisingly, he is disappointed that they haven't achieved it yet.

Trump grew angry on Friday when his hand-picked trade representative Robert Lighthizer said any trade "deal" they reach with China will probably take the form of a non-binding memorandum of understanding, but Trump's displeasure with Lighthizer has been building for months according to sources who spoke to Bloomberg.

I'm sure it will also not surprise you to learn that Trump blames Lighthizer for the various dumpster fires he has personally lit.

Trump’s disappointment with his trade czar has built in recent months, according to people close to the administration, fueled by the stock market’s precipitous drop in late 2018 as the trade war with China escalated. U.S. stocks logged their worst December performance since the Great Depression, and had their biggest annual decline since 2008. [...]

For his part, Lighthizer, 71, who’s spent years arguing for a tougher trade stand against China, has been growing irritated with Trump’s interventions, according to people familiar with the administration’s internal deliberations.

As you probably recall, Trump kicked off the market's decline in December when he revealed that his villainous alter-ego is "Tariff Man."

Now, Trump's dysfunctional relationship with other humans and his habit of blaming others for his own mistakes is nothing new, but there are several things we can take away from what happened last week.

If a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) is as far as they've come, I believe that tells us there's still a great deal of distance between Trump's demands and what China is willing to concede.

Trump's displeasure with MOUs could also be an indication that he will not sign off on whatever Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have managed to negotiate if all it amounts to is an agreement on the meaning of words.

  • katanahamon

    What? A failed, narcissistic, multiply bankrupted fool doesn’t understand and is ruining international trade? I’m..so shocked!

    • ….and refuses to take responsibility for it. Hoocoodanode!

  • muselet

    Memoranda of Understanding are as binding as the parties want them to be. Both the US and China will try to insert exploitable ambiguities into any MOU, but both will treat the document as legally enforceable. (MOUs are also used to circumvent the need for legislative approval for an international agreement. My guess is that Robert Lighthizer finds that useful, regardless of what Donald Trump says.)

    Regardless, I’m sure whatever trade deal, regardless of form, comes from these negotiations will be somewhere between terrible and disastrous.

    –alopecia

    • JMAshby

      I should have made it clear that I don’t believe the two sides will agree to something rigidly binding or clearly enforceable.

      I look at the Trump regime’s contempt for the WTO and I see a regime that does not believe other governments should have any mechanism for pursuing their own complaints against the US. Would Trump sign something that gives China more enforcement power? I doubt it. He wants to have cake (anti-China enforcement) and eat it too.

      • muselet

        I don’t disagree. Both China and Donald Trump would prefer an agreement that’s not quite legally binding, because each side sees that as an advantage.

        However, Steve Benen says the MOUs will “serve as sthe basis for a comprehensive agreement.” In other words, MOUs may not be binding, but in this case they’re a step toward something that is.

        I’m sure there are creative ambiguities sprinkled through the MOUs (and will remain in the ultimate trade agreement), which is why I’d feel a lot less nervous about this if actual grown-ups who know stuff were in charge.

        –alopecia