Yet More Trade Antics From the President

So many soybeans.Imago via ZUMA

Let’s catch up on trade news. First, there’s this:

Speaking at a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee, Mr. Lighthizer said that the European Union, along with Argentina, Australia, Brazil and South Korea, would be exempted. Canada and Mexico were earlier left off the list of countries subject to the tariffs.

That’s three-quarters of all the tariffs that were originally announced, and I imagine Japan and Taiwan will get themselves on this list shortly too. Among big exporters of steel, that will leave only Russia and Turkey. So what was the point of all this?

Next up, Trump is getting ready to slap tariffs on either $50 or $60 billion worth of Chinese imports. No one knows which. But the tariffs will cover thousands of different products. Earlier, China had sounded pretty low-key about this, but not anymore:

It is readying retaliatory tariffs against U.S. exports of soybeans, sorghum and live hogs, targeting products from Farm Belt states that supported President Donald Trump, according to people with knowledge of the policies. But Beijing’s response would be calibrated to minimize escalation, the people said.

China imports about $12 billion worth of soybeans from the US. The other stuff is minor. In any case, I suppose we’re now in for another round of farmers who voted for Trump wailing that they didn’t know he was actually going to do any of the stuff he spent a year saying he’d do. They just figured he was lying in order to sound like a tough guy—which, admittedly, might not have been a bad guess. But it didn’t pan out.

Unlike a lot of people, I’m not especially worried about a trade war. I just think this whole thing is pointless. Why we are wasting our time on this stuff?