The unraveling accelerates

The finance ministers of the G7 met in British Columbia last week and gave the US Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, an earful. They told him the US is forsaking its global economic leadership.

Not only are we treating our allies and trading partners poorly, the chaotic style of the US President has worn thin. Depending on which fractious voice is in favor on a given day, the President is routinely changing his mind. This quote from Hua Chunying, the Chinese Foreign Minister, which was reported by The New York Times, is telling:

“In international relations, every time you change your face and turn your back is another loss and squandering of your country’s credibility.”

In the same article, an anonymous European official noted the short-sighted nature of the President and his Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who are looking for “photo opportunities at American steel factories.”

The official noted “European negotiators regard that stance as an unsophisticated, zero-sum view of trade, in which one country that sells more goods to its partner is the winner – an outlook that makes a trade deal difficult to achieve.”

There is a sadness in reading these words. Many have seen this retrenchment tactic as troubling. Conservative pundit David Brooks called the tariffs on allies as “ruinous” on PBS Newshour. On the same show, more liberal pundit Mark Shields called them “reckless.” Shields added that Trump has tended to not respect relationships and views the world as “me and the enemies.”

Zero-sum transactional thinking is a narrow minded view. In global trade, the deal must be fair to stand the test of time. Of course, any deal must be reevaluated over time, but it must be done out of mutual respect. In Trump’s view on anything, he must defeat the other. That is not conducive to building a relationship.




16 thoughts on “The unraveling accelerates

    • Janis, I wonder if Trump even listens any more. I read an article that said his key team of advisors are all toadies. Kelly has less influence. Let’s hope Mattis still does. Keith

  1. Good post, Keith! That quote by Hua Chunying says it all. I share Janis’ bewilderment at how short a time it has taken for one ‘man’ and his minions to undo decades of cooperation and diplomacy. For one who considers himself to be the master “deal-maker”, he surely does lack any skills in that area. He is, as I have said more than a few times, nothing more than the schoolyard bully, only now he has been unleashed on the world. As you said, I think he listens to nobody, not even the few knowledgeable advisors around him, and for that, we are going to pay one heck of a price if we cannot remove him soon. However, I have to wonder if Pence will be any better?

    • Jill, it has been relatively quick. I was reading the Wall Street Journal today and in a series of articles, they are not painting a pretty picture of Trump’s tariffs. They reminded me that 100 GOP Senators and Congresspeople have signed a letter beseeching him to back away from these tariffs. Since he cannot admit he was wrong, it will be interesting to see if he triples down or backs away. He will claim whatever victory he can if he does. Keith

      • I cannot picture him backing down … there will never, I think, come any admission of being wrong on his part. Then again, he seems never to remember what his position was on any given day, hence the on-again-off-again NoKo summit. But on the tariffs, I don’t look for him to back down. I hope I’m wrong. Sigh.

      • Jill, I hope you are wrong, but I think you are right. A smug Newt Gingrich was on The View. Among several lies, he said something very hilarious – he said Trump was “consistent.” Really? I have never seen a more chaotic person in leadership. Keith

      • Actually, I don’t think there are any very positive words that you or I would use to define him. The ones I most often use to define him do not belong on this public venue đŸ˜‰

  2. The days of the old maxim ‘When America sneezes, the world catches a cold’ are over as other economical cycles are taking place. I don’t suppose for one moment Trump and his folk realise how vulnerable the USA is economically when taking into account its size and requirements as a nation.

    • Roger, I won’t repeat my note to Jill, but the Wall Street Journal also noted today that the US is usually a unifier in the G7. We are now the outlier. That may sum up the problem pretty nicely. Keith

  3. Note to Readers: Reuters reported the Koch Brothers are firmly against Trump’s tariffs. The article said they will run commercials against the tariffs if he continues down this path. Trump keeps defending the tariffs, but he is finding out being the subject of disdain by so many is very unsettling. Keith

  4. Dear Keith,

    The president with his minions like Peter Navarro and Wilbur Ross are outliers on the issue of trade but that is why the president picked them.

    The president and his partners in this foolishness cannot win with these tariffs, and all those who are the recipient of them need to push back. If you give a bully an inch, he’ll take an arm.

    The fact that PM Trudeau of Canada indicated that Canada and Mexico had more or less finalized a new NAFTA deal before VP Pence blew it up with his last minute demand for a sunset clause for 5 years, tells me that something else is going on here that we can’t see.

    The national security justification is a red herring.

    Hugs, Gronda

    • Gronda, you are right suspect shenanigans on any deal. The man changes his mind so often, a deal is not done until signed. But, even then I would have doubts. When Gingrich said Trump was “consistent” there was noticeable laughter in the audience. Keith

  5. Note to Readers: On top of the tariffs, pulling out of deals, and general bullying, the US has way too many open ambassador positions. Plus, as Gronda and Jill have reported, we have some ambassadors who are politicking in the country and region making it harder on the host country. That is not conducive to diplomacy.

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