Donald Trump, who was supposedly elected president for his dealmaking prowess, is taking advice on how to win a trade war from pasty gym rat Paul Ryan.
Today, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross relayed to reporters that Trump is willing to be flexible with Canada and Mexico on the newly-imposed steel and aluminum tariffs. According to Ross, “[t]he president indicated that if we can work something out with Canada and Mexico they will be exempted. It’s not inconceivable that others could be exempted on a similar basis.”
As we all know, the best way to win a war is to start one, then immediately announce that you’re open to negotiations.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the Trump administration is “definitely going to end up” with the sweeping tariffs that Trump wants – 25% on steel imports, 10% on aluminum imports. Secretary Mnuchin also confirmed that Trump, master strategist that he is, is open to “a mechanism where, to the extent that the president wants to give waivers, the president can do that.”
The official reason for the trade tariffs, according to Trump, is to protect American industries and national security. This sounds like a great reason if you don’t stop to think about it for more than a second or two. But evidently Trump is willing to cede ground to whoever he feels deserves a waiver, which would seem to indicate that he is not operating from the position of strength that he would like the global community to believe.
It is certainly theoretically possible that Trump will end up imposing these stiff tariffs on a number of countries. It is also possible – and perhaps more likely – that the Venn diagram of “Countries Receiving Waivers” and “Countries Where the Trump Organization Does Business” will consist of one circle.
This has been your daily reminder that Donald Trump is as bad a president as he was a businessman.