Trump Threatens to Blow Up His ‘Greatest Deal’ to Punish China

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

I am at least a little skeptical that this will lead to formal action, but Trump regime officials are reportedly in the early stages of drafting tariffs on Chinese goods that Trump could impose as punishment for the coronavirus.

Trump himself says punishing China is now more important to him than his "biggest and greatest" trade deal which was neither big or great.

Two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a range of options against China were under discussion, but cautioned that efforts were in the early stages. Recommendations have not yet reached the level of Trump’s top national security team or the president, one official told Reuters.

“There is a discussion as to how hard to hit China and how to calibrate it properly,” one of the sources said as Washington walks a tightrope in its ties with Beijing while it imports personal protection equipment (PPE) from there and is wary of harming a sensitive trade deal. [...]

“We signed a trade deal where they’re supposed to buy, and they’ve been buying a lot, actually. But that now becomes secondary to what took place with the virus,” Trump told reporters. “The virus situation is just not acceptable.”

Trump says his trade deal is "secondary" now, but it was hardly ever primary.

The truth of the matter is that Trump's trade deal was more or less irrelevant even before the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic. The deal did open the doorway to more exports of soybeans, but all of Trump's tariffs (and China's retaliatory tariffs on most things) are still in place as of today even while the economy falls off a cliff and there's been no discussion at all of lifting them.

Trump can threaten to blow up his own deal by imposing more tariffs now because, politically, punishing China in some way may be more useful than a deal that's now completely defunct because of the pandemic.

None of these things -- from Trump's 'greatest deal' to his new threat to impose more tariffs on China -- have been done for legitimate reasons. They're political calculations. The trade war was waged for political reasons. An underwhelming deal was struck for political reasons. New tariffs may be imposed for political reasons.

For Trump, blaming China for the pandemic comes with the added benefit of indirectly blaming China for the collapse of a trade deal that was never significant to begin with.