Earlier this week, Nancy Pelosi announced that Democrats had made enormous changes to the trade deal between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. In fact, they had altered the miserable beginning that Donald Trump’s team crafted so significantly, that the announcement was made with the support of U.S. labor unions. It was an absolute example of making if not a silk purse, then at least a solidly U.S.-favoring bag from a worse-than-NAFTA sow’s ear.
Still, the media rushed to make this a “victory for Trump.” It’s almost as if the deal could have contained guarantees on worker income greater than those we have in the United States, and protections on environmental issues stronger than any previous foreign agreement, and the press would have still rushed to hand this “win” to the guy who has consistently attacked both those issues. Oh, wait: It did.
That wasn’t the end of the trade “victories” for Trump. On Friday, the major outlets were again hopping-to with their accolades for Trump’s “enormous” trade deal with China. This “phenomenal deal” gave Trump his “second trade win of the week” according to The New York Times. And broadcasts across the dial rushed to report on how Trump finished out his impeachment week with a triumph.
Only … yeah, not quite. Because we’ve been in exactly this place before. Not only was Trump making the same claims about a trade deal back in April and May, this deal is much worse than what he claimed at that time. And that deal was much worse than the big win Trump claimed almost exactly one year ago. As Rolling Stone reported at the time, not only did Trump use the unfortunate wording of “big leap forward” when describing a deal with China, he promised that he would soon end the 25% tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods and restore the connection between Chinese markets and American farmers.
Only now, there’s a 25% tariff on $250 billion of Chinese goods, a 15% tariff on another $150 billion of goods, and a larger trade deficit than existed before Trump started his war. And in the meantime, Chinese markets have simply moved on to making long term deals with producers in Brazil, Argentina, and Australia. And Trump’s “deal” not only doesn’t yet exist, but even if it did it would change none of the above. Just because there’s a trade deal does not make it a win for Trump. Especially when there’s not even a deal.
Foreign Policy has a more detailed analysis of what they describe as Trump’s “latest mini-deal.” For them, the only good news seems to be that Trump is not announcing any new tariffs. That’s where we are at this point: Trump not making things actively worse is considered a win for America.
On the other hand, if it’s not making things worse the deal, if it even exists, is also not making things better. It appears that what Trump is negotiating is nothing but a purchase agreement, and the scale and scope of that agreement are still undefined. It does nothing to address any underlying issues.
And, as Foreign Policy points out, this is not the deal Trump campaigned on.
Trump used China as a punching bag during the presidential campaign, railed against its unfair trade practices (sometimes correctly), and hit nearly all of China’s exports to the United States with big tariffs. His whole argument was that the massive U.S. trade deficit with China was bad for the United States, that the Chinese government was stealing U.S. technology, and that he alone could bring back manufacturing jobs to the United States. This mini-agreement, or what little has been made public, does none of that.
Published with permission from Daily Kos.