From trade deals to gun control and immigration to military deployments, the president has a consistent pattern: Talk a big game, then back down.
President Trump’s May 8 announcement that he was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal should not have come as a surprise. He’d spent years railing against the plan—“the worst deal ever,” he dubbed it—and had promised to rip it up. And yet up to the moment when the president made the final call, there was still some suspense about what he would say.
US President Donald Trump has called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which succeeds NAFTA, “the single greatest agreement ever signed.” In reality, it is not as good as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which Trump withdrew the US upon taking office, nor is it particularly better than the agreement it replaced.
Of course, this is Trump’s modus operandi: threaten to do something catastrophic, so people are relieved when things get only a little bit worse. That is what he did with North Korea, when he insulted its leader, Kim Jong-un, and threatened to rain down “fire and fury” on the country. Compared to nuclear conflict, his eventual meeting with Kim seemed like a triumph, even though it produced little actual progress.
.. Trump’s own mischaracterization of that meeting’s outcome – the problem of a nuclear-armed North Korea, he falsely asserted, had been “solved” – is another standard Trump tactic. He callsthe USMCA “the single greatest agreement ever signed.” For Trump, all NAFTA really needed was a new name – one that, as Eswar Prasad points out, literally puts “America First” – to enable him to pretend for his supporters that he achieved something positive.
..The first change is the introduction of two measures pertaining to the auto industry. The agreement requires that, to avoid tariffs, 75% of an automobile’s content originate within North America
.. This will bring some benefits to some American autoworkers, at the expense of everybody else. Not only will consumers face higher costs for autos; the disruption of existing efficient supply chains may even leave the US auto industry as a whole worse off, as it undermines the international competitiveness of North American output.
.. But this concession, the equivalent of 0.00003% of US total exports, will have no discernible impact on the US trade balance. Trump cannot truthfully claim a victory relative to the status quo he inherited – even to his mercantilist supporters. In fact, Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, had managed to wrest similar dairy concessions from Canada in 2015 as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which Trump withdrew the US immediately upon taking office.
.. Overall, the TPP would have been better than the USMCA
.. in the USMCA negotiations, the US agreed to give Canada increased access to its own dairy market, as well as to two of its other most highly protected agricultural areas: peanuts (and processed peanut products) and sugar
.. The third feature of the USMCA that has drawn the most attention relates to dispute-settlement mechanisms.
.. The fourth notable change in the USMCA is the introduction of a sunset clause.
.. the USMCA must be renewed every 16 years. One hopes that future reviews will take place at times when more sensible leaders are in charge, and perhaps will eliminate the automatic sunset clause.
.. Ultimately, the rebranded NAFTA is a step in the direction of the TPP that Trump so reviled. It is not as good as the TPP, nor is it an overall improvement over NAFTA. But it is better than blowing up trade in North America.
When it comes to misguided revenge, Sons of Anarchy has nothing on Donald Trump. The President’s own man-of-mayhem trade policies have forced Harley-Davidson to move some of its motorcycle production overseas. But Mr. Trump responded to this week’s announcement by menacing the company on Twitter Tuesday morning.
.. “A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country—never!” Mr. Trump raged. “Their employees and customers are already very angry at them. If they move, watch, it will be the beginning of the end – they surrendered, they quit! The Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!” In another tweet, the President added, “Harley must know they won’t be able to sell back into U.S. without paying a big tax!”.. So the company was left with two choices: Avoid the tariff by moving operations abroad, or pay the new EU tax, which will cost the company $90 million to $100 million each year. Keep in mind that Harley is already paying $15 million to $20 million more for manufacturing this year because of Mr. Trump’s tariffs on metal... Harley is dealing with union backlash for opening a production plant in Thailand while closing one in Kansas City. Harley made that hard call after Mr. Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership last year, though that agreement would have reduced foreign tariffs on American-made motorcycles.Mr. Trump’s TPP decision made it harder for Harley to compete in the Asian market while still using U.S.-based steelworkers and machinists. Cause, meet effect.
.. We remember how Barack Obama railed against Anthem for raising insurance premiums when Democrats were distorting the health-care market. One might expect that Mr. Trump, supposedly savvier about business realities, would understand how corporations have to make tough choices to survive bad policies. Mr. Trump should rage against the man in the mirror who is the reason for Harley’s choices.
February 2016, I warned in an article co-written with economist Benn Steil that “a Trump presidency threatens the post-World War II liberal international order that American presidents of both parties have so laboriously built up — an order based on free trade and alliances with other democracies. His policies would not make America ‘great.’ Just the opposite. A Trump presidency would represent the death knell of America as a great power.”
.. In just the past few weeks, he has taken a giant step toward destroying the global system that the United States created after 1945.
.. Trump has now exited three major treaties — the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear accord — and thrown into doubt the future of another — the North American Free Trade Agreement — while launching a reckless trade war against our closest allies.
.. Trump continued to push his irrational idée fixe that the United States — the richest nation in the world — has been victimized by its friends.
.. Trump looks like a defendant who has just been found guilty by a jury of his peers.
.. Justin Trudeau did not mince words, calling the U.S. tariffs “insulting” and saying: “Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around.”
.. No U.S. officials have ever spoken this way about any U.S. ally, ever. These are the kind of words that normally precede military action.
.. Trump seems amazed to discover that the European Union (gross domestic product: $17.1 trillion), Japan ($4.8 trillion), and Canada ($1.6 trillion) — which together produce more than the United States ($19.3 trillion) — will not be pushed around as easily as the contractors he has gotten used to stiffing.
.. add Russia. This was a bizarre suggestion, given that Russia is not only an international outlaw but also an economic pygmy whose GDP does not even rank in the top 10.
.. If the G-7 were to expand, it should include India and Brazil, both democracies that have larger economiesthan Russia’s.
.. invasion of Ukraine — an act of aggression for which Trump perversely blames President Barack Obama — and it has done nothing since 2014 to deserve readmittance. Instead, its meddling in U.S. elections its and war crimes in Syria demand more punishment.
.. Trump is doing precisely what Putin hoped would happen when he helped Trump get elected.
.. A new poll finds that only 14 percent of Germans consider the United States a reliable partner, compared with 36 percent for Russia and 43 percent for China. That the citizens of one of America’s staunchest and most important allies now look more favorably upon our illiberal foes is a testament to Trump’s unrivaled wrecking abilities.
.. none of those disputes called into question the fundamental unity of the West in the way that Trump’s stupid and self-destructive actions do. The Atlantic alliance was born in Canada in 1941 and may well have died there in 2018.