Trump misses dead­line as trade pol­icy floun­ders

The Mercury News Weekend - - NEWS - By David J. Lynch, Damian Paletta and Erica Werner The Washington Post

WASHINGTON » Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Thurs­day missed House Speaker Paul Ryan’s dead­line for a new North Amer­i­can trade deal, cast doubt on prospects for avert­ing a trade war with China hours be­fore meet­ing a top Chi­nese of­fi­cial, and bragged about his ne­go­ti­at­ing skills.

All in all, it was just an­other day in the pres­i­dent’s on­go­ing ef­fort to re­make U.S. trade pol­icy.

On Capi­tol Hill, the Repub­li­can-con­trolled-House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee re­buked Trump by amend­ing an an­nual spend­ing bill to bar the Com­merce Depart­ment from eas­ing a ban on Chi­nese tele­com gi­ant ZTE do­ing busi­ness with U.S. sup­pli­ers as the pres­i­dent had or­dered ear­lier this week.

The panel’s ac­tion on a must-pass bill was the lat­est sign that Trump’s break­neck bid to put “Amer­ica First” is ex­as­per­at­ing his con­gres­sional al­lies, as well as spook­ing busi­ness lead­ers and forc­ing the White House to de­fend re­peated pol­icy shifts.

The re­sult­ing chaos is alien­at­ing U. S. part­ners in Europe and Asia while call­ing into ques­tion Trump’s abil­ity to de­liver on a core pledge to re­bal­ance U. S. trade pol­icy to ben­e­fit Amer­i­can work­ers.

Af­ter 16 months of fever­ish ac­tiv­ity and white­hot rhetoric, the pres­i­dent has a mod­est over­haul of a South Korean trade deal and stepped-up enforcement of U. S. trade laws to his credit. Yet so far, a promised re­write of the 1994 North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment and a re­cal­i­brated eco­nomic re­la­tion­ship with China have eluded him. At the White House, Trump ques­tioned this week’s talks with a vis­it­ing Chi­nese ne­go­ti­at­ing team. “Will that be suc­cess­ful? I tend to doubt it. The rea­son I doubt it is be­cause China has be­come very spoiled” with the sta­tus quo on trade, the pres­i­dent said.

“Trade has been a to­tal one-way street,” Trump added. “We had no­body rep­re­sent­ing us and now you have some­body who’s very good at this stuff — me — rep­re­sent­ing us.”

Trump cas­ti­gated al­lies and ad­ver­saries, say­ing that the European Union has been “ter­ri­ble” to the United States on trade, and com­plain­ing: “We have been ripped off by China.”

On the day that Ryan last week set as the dead­line for the United States to an­nounce a new North Amer­i­can trade deal that Congress could vote on this year, the pres­i­dent’s scat­ter­shot ap­proach and di­vided ne­go­ti­at­ing team were on full dis­play.

His White House com­ments came hours af­ter an ad­min­is­tra­tion turf war burst into pub­lic view with re­ports that Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin and White House ad­viser Peter Navarro had en­gaged in a pro­fane shout­ing match dur­ing an of­fi­cial trip to Bei­jing.


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