Election 2020 Trade

“I might want to wait”

Written by SK Ashby

Trump, his top economic advisers, and members of his cabinet have all said they would begin negotiations with China for "phase two" of Trump's "biggest and greatest deal ever" immediately after "phase one" is signed by the two countries, but Trump spoke to reports at the White House today where he said he likes the idea of waiting until after the 2020 election.

Trump said he might "want to wait" to do another one of his infamous "deals" because he'll be able to get a better deal after he's been reelected.

From CNBC:

The president said his administration will start “right away” negotiating the next piece of an agreement after striking a so-called phase one deal. But he said “it’ll take a little time” to finish an accord, and suggested he could have more leverage after his reelection bid in November.

“I think I might want to wait to finish ’til after the election, because by doing that, I think we can actually make a little bit better deal, maybe a lot better deal,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

At face value this implies that a hypothetical "phase two" would substantively close gaps that were left behind by the first phase, but Trump's inability to negotiate in good faith or even acknowledge empirical reality is why his big deal was broken up into phases to begin with.

The only reason "phase one" exists is because it was the only thing Trump's crack team of Larry Kudlow, Robert Lighthizer, Steve Mnuchin, Wilbur Ross, and Ron Vara Peter Navarro could negotiate. If not for phase one, there would be no phases at all. There would be no deal.

Trump has demonstrated that that he wants to keep this issue alive throughout the 2020 presidential election so he can use it at his unhinged campaign rallies and the hands of his staff have been tied to some degree as a result, but it's also true that Trump has asked for things that China will never give him and, to that end, waiting until after the election to make a deal is not up to Trump. He'll end up waiting because it's never going to happen.

Democratic presidential candidates have not made Trump's trade war a significant part of their campaigns and I suspect that's because unions who've supported Trump's war can have an outsize influence on close primary races. The eventual Democratic nominee for president will have to make it clear to the public what a failure Trump's trade war has been and that will be a more difficult task for the candidates still in the race at the moment who've co-signed Trump's war at one point or another. I consider this a big weakness for a couple Democrats still in the race.

With that said, the trade war is also a significant weakness for down-ballot Republicans who represent areas of the country where the consequences of the war are more acute.