Trump misses deadline as trade policy flounders
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.