“By portraying him as the naughty boy in the room, he will stick even more to his behavior and it will get worse,” said Röttgen, who is a member of Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union. “We have to ignore his behavior and concentrate on what is left of the substance of the transatlantic relationship.”
.. But Röttgen derived at least some hope from Trump’s proposal for entirely tariff-free trade among allies. Although Trump coupled the idea with a threat, and most experts see the notion as far-fetched, Röttgen said it is at least a basis for discussion.
.. Germany has the most to lose from a trade war with the United States. The United States had a $151 billion trade deficit in goods with the European Union last year. Germany alone, with its high-end automobile and appliance exports, accounted for $64 billion of that.
.. there were signs among otherwise frustrated allied leaders that they see Trump and his “America First” agenda as an aberration and not necessarily as expressive of a new reality.
Macron emphasized his belief that Trump’s vision of America was at odds with American values.
.. Trump allies allegedly told the Telegraph newspaper that the U.S. president had grown weary of May’s “schoolmistress tone.”
.. Trump had called for Russia to be readmitted into the G-7 group, much to the dismay of leaders of Germany, Britain and France.
.. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte
.. said on Twitter that Russia’s return to the group was “in the interests of everybody.”
.. “every move made by the premier has been conceived so as to break the European front and attempt to build an anti-EU axis with Trump.”
Two weeks ago, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, declared that the trade war with China was “on hold” and that the United States would temporarily holster its tariffs. The reassuring comments calmed markets and raised hopes that Mr. Mnuchin, one of President Trump’s most enduring and trusted advisers, was winning the internal trade battle that has gripped the White House.
Then Mr. Trump weighed in. In a one-two punch last week, the president doubled down on the trade war with China and threw in ones with Canada, Mexico and Europe for good measure.
.. The scolding laid bare the uncomfortably familiar spot that Mr. Mnuchin finds himself in: trying to be a voice of moderation and a statesman in an administration that sees diplomatic norms and protocols as signs of weakness.
He has so far managed to stay in Mr. Trump’s good graces while advocating a more free-trade approach, but that balancing act is showing signs of strain.
.. Mr. Mnuchin, unflappable in public, is privately making his case with a president
.. The internal tensions boiled over in May during a trade mission Mr. Mnuchin led to China, when he dressed down Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s hawkish trade adviser, by reminding him where he stood in the administration’s pecking order after Mr. Navarro confronted him about being sidelined from the talks.
.. Current and former White House and Treasury officials say Mr. Mnuchin has managed to thrive by employing a mix of assertiveness and obsequiousness, staking out his position to the president but quickly changing course to carry out Mr. Trump’s marching orders, even if his message did not win the day.
.. Mr. Trump tweeted that he was going to find a way to help put back in business a Chinese telecommunications company that had been punished for violating American sanctions on Iran and North Korea. The decision blindsided administration officials and lawmakers
.. Mr. Mnuchin, along with the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, was dispatched to Capitol Hill to try to calm angry Republican lawmakers and explain the rationale behind allowing the company, ZTE, to remain in business.
.. those close to the secretary say he has learned to appreciate Mr. Trump’s use of the threat of tariffs as a negotiating tool.
.. focused on the president’s desire to see the bilateral trade deficit reduced, rather than emphasizing some of the other trade barriers
.. Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former top strategist, has said that Mr. Mnuchin is in over his head in the negotiations and that he is letting Mr. Trump’s leverage slip away by failing to force China to make major changes to its industrial policy.
.. it was apparent that the Chinese government was trying to elevate Mr. Mnuchin’s role in the negotiations because they see him as the American official most likely to cut a deal.
.. “Among the possible choices, they see Mnuchin as being less hawkish than some of the other counterparts,”
.. populist voices outside the administration have already been heckling Mr. Mnuchin as inept amid reports that the United States was on the verge of making an agreement with China that was viewed as merely symbolic.
.. Mr. Mnuchin has at times found himself the subject of derision, characterized as a fawning banker who cannot tell the president “no.”
.. Last year, the Treasury secretary was scoffed at by economic policymakers from across the political spectrum for insisting that the $1.5 trillion Trump tax cuts would pay for themselves.
.. Mr. Mnuchin told members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus to “vote for the debt ceiling for me.” His plea was met with groans and hisses.
.. Last August, fellow alumni of Yale, where Mr. Mnuchin earned a bachelor’s degree, called on the secretary to resign when he defended Mr. Trump’s handling of racially inspired violence in Charlottesville, Va. A month later, Lawrence Summers, a Clinton administration Treasury secretary, called Mr. Mnuchin the “greatest sycophant in cabinet history” for supporting Mr. Trump’s criticism of football players who knelt during the national anthem.
.. points to his role in successfully steering the Republican tax cut package, which many said would never pass, through Congress.
.. Within the Treasury Department, Mr. Mnuchin has developed a reputation as a micromanager. He resisted choosing a full-time deputy for more than a year, preferring to oversee everything from carrying out the new tax law to overseeing financial sanctions.
.. When the Internal Revenue Service systems failed on Tax Day, the response to the crash was slowed because Mr. Mnuchin was in New Hampshire
.. He had required that any big decisions be cleared by him
.. Mr. Mnuchin’s closest aides describe him as a collegial and mentoring figure.
.. Despite his earnest persona on television, he is known to possess a wry sense of humor
The ships are leaving the sinking rat.
That’s the moral of Paul Ryan’s unexpected but not surprising announcement this week that he will give up the speakership
.. Many of these Republicans once believed that Donald Trump alone possessed the kind of political virility needed to vanquish Hillary Clinton and make America great again. Only belatedly have they figured out that the virility comes with a case of syphilis.
.. “The litmus test for being a Republican these days is not about any given set of ideals or principles; it’s about loyalty to the man, and I think that’s challenging.”
.. The world will little note nor long remember that in 2017 Republicans cut the top marginal rate to 37 percent from 39.6 percent and otherwise tried but failed to kill Obamacare
.. A conservative rejoinder to this critique is that the speaker had no choice; that Trump was the lemon with which he had to make lemonade. Nonsense. Congress and the White House are coequals, and Ryan and other Republicans who saw Trump for what he is never owed him obeisance. They owed the country an alternative political vision, untainted by Trumpism, which could emerge from the debacle of this presidency with clean hands. Ryan’s failure to deliver one will be remembered as the central fact of his once-bright career.
.. Is there an alternative?
Among Republicans, Ohio’s John Kasich, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, and Arizona’s Jeff Flake and John McCain have sought in different ways to offer one, without immediate success but with integrity, honor and a sense of the long view.
.. “The center-right and center-left are still joined by a broad set of common values, including respect for free speech and dissent, a belief in the benefits of international trade and immigration, respect for law and procedural legitimacy, a suspicion of cults of personality, and an understanding that free societies require protection from authoritarians promising easy fixes to complex problems.”
Trump himself has already undercut his national-security claim by exempting most major exporters of steel to the US. Canada, for example, is exempted on the condition of a successful renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement,
.. effectively threatening the country unless it gives into US demands.
But there are a host of issues in contention, involving, for example, lumber, milk, and cars. Is Trump really suggesting that the US would sacrifice national security for a better agreement on these minor irritants in US-Canadian trade? Or perhaps the national-security claim is fundamentally bogus, as Trump’s secretary of defense has suggested, and Trump, as muddled as he is on most issues, realizes this.
.. As is often the case, Trump seems to be fixated on a bygone problem.
- .. Recall that, by the time Trump began talking about his border wall, immigration from Mexico had already dwindled to near zero.
- And by the time he started complaining about China depressing its currency’s exchange rate, the Chinese government was in fact propping up the renminbi.
- .. Likewise, Trump is introducing his steel tariffs after the price of steel has already increased by about 130% from its trough, owing partly to China’s own efforts to reduce its excess capacity.
.. But Trump is not just addressing a non-issue. He is also inflaming passions and taxing US relationships with key allies. Worst of all, his actions are motivated by pure politics. He is eager to seem strong and confrontational in the eyes of his electoral base.
.. what matters is the multilateral trade deficit, not bilateral trade deficits with any one country.
.. Reducing imports from China will not create jobs in the US. Rather, it will increase prices for ordinary Americans and create jobs in Bangladesh, Vietnam, or any other country that steps in to replace the imports that previously came from China.
.. In the few instances where manufacturing does return to the US, it will probably not create jobs in the old Rust Belt. Instead, the goods are likely to be produced by robots, which are as likely to be located in high-tech centers as elsewhere.
.. the Republican Party, standing in solidarity with Trump, seems suddenly to have forgotten its longstanding commitment to free trade, much like a few months ago, when it forgot its longstanding commitment to fiscal prudence.
.. while Trump claims to be looking out for US industrial workers, the real winner from “successful” negotiations – which would spur China to open its markets further to insurance and other financial activities – is likely to be Wall Street.
.. The EU, for its part, seems highly concerned with protecting data privacy, whereas China does not. Unfortunately, that could give China a large advantage in developing AI.
.. In the years ahead, we are going to have to figure out how to create a “fair” global trading regime among countries with fundamentally different economic systems, histories, cultures, and societal preferences.
The danger of the Trump era is that while the world watches the US president’s Twitter feed and tries not to be pushed off one cliff or another, such real and difficult challenges are going unaddressed.