Trade

‘Vietnam is even worse than China’

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Trump recently boasted that some American companies are shifting production and sourcing goods outside of China; specifically naming Vietnam as one country that is now producing goods for American consumers.

There is evidence that a limited number of American companies have shifted small portions of their production to Vietnam whenever possible, but the relatively small nation of Vietnam will never be able to match the industrial output of China, a nation of nearly 1.4 billion people.

Even if that were not the case, however, it would be no reason to celebrate according to Trump who says Vietnam is worse than China.

"Almost all countries in this world take tremendous advantage of the United States. It's unbelievable," he said in the lengthy interview.

Casting his eye over the wider landscape, Trump also lashed out at close partners Vietnam, Germany and Japan.

Vietnam is "even worse than China" when it comes to unfair trading practices, he said. Vietnam is the "single worst abuser."

I audibly shrieked when I first read this because it has been less than a month since Trump celebrated the small but measurable shift in production from China to Vietnam.

I don't know if this is an indication that Trump intends to impose tariffs on Vietnamese goods at some point in the future, but it does support the popular theory that Trump will pick a fight with a new boogeyman even if his trade war with China ended tomorrow.

Trump did not list any specific reasons why Vietnam is "worse than China," probably because he doesn't know any specific reasons. Most American exports face tariffs of 15 percent in Vietnam which imposes tariffs on products that their own industries manufacture. This promotes growth in domestic manufacturing and has made it possible for Vietnam to take orders from a limited number of companies that previously sourced their goods from China. The ability to import products from Vietnam for little to no cost has made it more attractive to foreign investors.

Imports from Vietnam increased by about 0.5 percent between October 2018 and March 2019 according to UBS.

  • Badgerite

    Since when did America become the world’s ‘victim.’
    God, these people are horrible.

  • muselet

    Donald Trump approaches everything as if it were an unscripted (well, “unscripted”) television show. Every episode, there has to be a hero (him) and a villain (which changes periodically to keep viewers from getting bored).

    Canada and Mexico as adversaries just didn’t resonate with the audience (too many people are too familiar with those places), so they were dropped. China had a good run as the evil, mean, rotten scoundrel out to thwart pur hero!, but it’s time for a new heel (to use professional wrestling’s term).

    Vietnam is a poor country that is bootstrapping itself into a manufacturing power. It’s a peculiar target for Trump’s ire, as are Germany and Japan.

    All of which would be alarming enough if Trump actually understood anything, any single thing, about trade.

    Vladimir Putin must giggle himself to sleep every night.

    –alopecia

  • Dread_Pirate_Mathius

    The words that come out of Donald J. Trump’s mouth are not “words” in the same sense that you or I would define a “word” to be. A “word” is a thing which has shared meaning and coherence and consistency. It is a medium of communication – of a thought, condensed into sounds.

    The noises that sally forth from the maw of Donald J. Trump are not this. They are feelings condensed into sound.

    Feelings do not need to be validated for them to be true or impactful. They are beyond rationality or dissection. If I say you have hurt me, you can’t argue this to be false, it is simply what it is: a feeling.

    Trump says many things that are, on the face of it, simply bafflingly incoherent, nonsensical, or objectively false. And we call him out of these, but we do so in vain because our focus is on the meaning of words as means of communication of rational thoughts and ideas. It is to this which we atune our antennae. But not so Trump’s base. To them, the sounds wash over their subconscious minds, conferring the feelings, emotions behind them.

    You and I hear: “It’s great that production moved to Vietnam” and also “Vietnam takes advantage of us and is terrible” and we process these as thoughts and ideas. Cognitively, we juxtapose the two ideas and reach the inescapable conclusion that these are jarringly at odds and thus the speaker is in some way at fault.

    But THEY hear: “China is taking advantage of you. I, your hero, have fought for you. I, your hero, have wounded our enemy.” They also hear “We are surrounded by enemies on all sides. I, your hero, will continue to fight for you. Everyone is taking advantage of you. Put your trust me me, and I will lead you to victory.” The two are not necessarily at odds. And even if they were, it wouldn’t matter, as the central core is: “trust in me. Everyone else is out to get you. I along can be trusted. I will win. And when I win, you will win. And all the bad things in your life will go away. You are only sad because of our enemies. I alone can fix it.”

    It’s insane, I know, but it is how he communicates with his followers. And feelings are powerful and they don’t have to be rational or consistent or true in order to be valid in their minds. All he has to do is send out enough messages that the feeling sinks into their skulls. No amount of arguing facts has ever had much impact on feelings.

    None of his supporters care that he’s lying. Because they don’t see it as lying. They don’t see his statements as “words” with meanings. They see him broadcasting the feelings, and they believe in and share in those feelings. And, to them, that’s all that matters. You might as well tell a religious fundamentalist that science contradicts their faith in god.. it will never matter what evidence you can bring to bear, you’ll never.. err.. trump.. their feeling of belief. In fact, horrifyingly, the science is pretty solid that the more you push, the more you fight and struggle to convert a person, the more entrenched their ideology becomes.

    This is the true terror of Donald J. Trump.

    Against this, we have no powers of persuasion, nor of accountability. Nothing can be done. No amount of calling him out or contradiction or investigations will make even the slightest impact. All we can do – ALL we can do – is pray that there are enough of us to vote him out of office in 2020.

    • muselet

      Depressing but true.

      –alopecia