Foreign Policy Trade

Let’s Make Everything More Complicated

Written by SK Ashby

The notion that Trump always makes things worse for Trump was reinforced last night as he tied yet another seemingly-unrelated event to a trade negotiations with China.

Trump made negotiations significantly more complicated earlier this year when he imposed sanctions on Chinese-owned telecommunications giant Huawei and then tied relief from those sanctions to non-existent progress during trade talks.

Trump complicated matters further last night by linking the resolution of unrest in Hong Kong to trade talks.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Wednesday tied a U.S. trade deal with China to humane resolution of the weeks of protests wracking Hong Kong, hours after the State Department said it was “deeply concerned” about reports of movement of Chinese paramilitary forces along the Hong Kong border. [...]

Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!” Trump said on Twitter. “I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?”

I don't think it's any mystery what happened here. This was Trump free-styling on his Twitter account with no oversight and no collaboration with the State Department, National Security Council, or his economic advisers.

I do not necessarily believe that Trump is sincere about linking Chinese President Xi Jingping's handling of unrest in Hong Kong to a trade deal, but for Trump to even say this places a trade deal further out of reach.

This is yet another affront to Chinese sovereignty and since Trump has now tied his name to the resolution of the crisis, it's likely that public sentiment in China will turn further against the protesters and further against making any concessions during trade talks.

Trump has done almost everything he can to make it politically untenable for Xi Jinping to work with him and I imagine Jinping is as interested in having a meeting with Trump as is he contracting an incurable disease.

Trump still thinks he's negotiating from a position of strength and that he can intimidate or hoodwink China's ruling party into giving him everything he wants, but every time he opens his mouth he makes it even less likely.