Trump’s latest impulsive moves against China, which reflect no coherent trade strategy other than his own petulance, could well derail the strongest thing he has going into the 2020 election: a relatively strong economy.
The New York Times’ Paul Krugman has calculated that the costs of a trade war with China could equal or exceed the fiscal benefits of the tax cuts and lower interest rates combined. The stock market has been oscillating widely in anticipation of a weakened economy.
Something had to change in the U.S.’s passive acceptance of China’s predatory economic model. But as I’ve previously written, that course would have taken subtle diplomacy and patience, neither of which are Trump’s strong suits.
Some U.S. manufacturers are now looking past China in their supply chains. That shift will probably benefit other Asian nations such as Vietnam more than it benefits the U.S.
China, for its part, rapidly becoming the global leader in a broad range of industries and technologies, is already looking beyond the U.S., which under Trump is fast squandering the leverage we have. China’s willingness to reduce the value of its currency, daring the U.S. to retaliate, is only the latest evidence that Trump’s bravado is backfiring.
At the rate things are going, Trump is squandering one election year advantage after another. What remains is his brew of racism, violence, and hatred. It won’t be enough.