Trump Wants to Punish Any Country That Does a Trade Deal With China

The Yangshan Deep Water Port, in east Shanghai, is the largest cargo port in the world.SIPA Asia via ZUMA

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that Donald Trump isn’t really interested in removing trade barriers. Quite the contrary:

The underlying principle, as Mr. Trump himself said in unveiling the North American accord this week, is that trade partners should consider it “a privilege for them to do business with us.” Access to the U.S. market will become increasingly contingent on countries adopting American rules and standards, from intellectual property protections to higher wages.

Now, this is nothing new even though Trump probably doesn’t know it. US presidents have pushed other countries for years to adopt American rules on IP, financial access, and other services that benefit American corporations. It’s just standard trade treaty negotiation, and all of this stuff was part of the TPP that Trump tossed out when he became president.

But then the Journal mentions one other thing. Trump apparently included several clauses in the new USMCA that don’t really have much effect on either Canada or Mexico, but are included as a sort of template for future agreements he hopes to negotiate:

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada deal could complicate Britain’s emerging strategy for crafting its own independent commercial diplomacy once it breaks from the EU. Britain hopes to achieve separate free-trade pacts with both the U.S. and China.

But the Trump administration seeks to add clauses in future deals that allow the U.S. to withdraw if a trade partner forges a separate deal with a “nonmarket economy”—a clear reference to China. That could force Britain to choose between Washington and Beijing.

So…if you negotiate a trade deal with China, you can’t also negotiate one with the US? Is that as crazy as it sounds? Can some experts weigh in? And even if it’s not totally crazy, how dangerous is it? If they were genuinely forced to choose, how many countries would choose the US over China? I’m not so sure. As near as I can tell, Trump’s idea of brilliant negotiating is to threaten 25 percent tariffs on everything if you don’t cut a deal with him, but that’s nowhere near as clever as he seems to think. And if that leverage is mostly a mirage, there are lots of countries that would probably prefer a trade agreement with China to one with Trump’s America. In fact, threatening to do a deal with China might provide them with leverage over Trump.

Anyway, the whole thing sounds pretty laughable. It also sounds very Trumpish. But I repeat myself.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate