Trump Watch: Trade Wars to “Make America Great Again”

June 15 was a special day for Trump – good old television unexpectedly displaced his tweets. Two televised events gave him ample room to rant about fake news and push for his favorite justification for trade wars: resentment at “unfair treatment” of America by the rest of the world, allies included.

One was a surprise half-hour long  interview with Fox & Friends. A short video released by The Washington Post focuses on the main points he made:

The other was an 18 minute Q&A session with reporters outside the White House:

Significantly, Trump did not discuss trade at any point in either televised sessions, although on that same day he had just slapped steep (25%) new tariffs covering $50 billion in trade with China. Watching Trump make all his pet points, one is struck by the fact that he covered the same old topics. Those he’s been constantly and obsessively tweeting about.

First, Hillary Clinton and the possibility that his winning the presidency was never a clear-cut victory. He pretended to misunderstand the just released report from the FBI Inspector General – enabling him to claim the report “exonerates” him. The report does nothing of the sort, it reviews the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. It finds some faults with the then FBI Director James B. Comey for not adhering closely to protocol, along with others in his team, notably Peter Strzok and Lisa Page who were having an affair and exchanged over-the-top bragging emails.

Yet Trump calls the report a “horror show”, not because of what’s in it, he says, but because of the conclusion that there was no political bias in the FBI investigation.  Trump cannot accept that. For him, there was “total bias”; the FBI was a “den of thieves”; Comey is a “criminal”; the top FBI management is “scum”; if you “polled the FBI, the real FBI”, you’d find they all “love” him.

In short, there never was any collusion between his campaign and Russia. We’ve all heard that before, over and over.

Second point, on national security. America’s military, built up to the tune of $700 billion a year, will be bigger than ever. The wall is needed, borders must be secured, a “compromise immigration bill” cannot be supported. The separation of immigrant children from their parents at the border is regrettable but it’s the Dem’s fault.

Third point, the whole world and America’s closest allies especially, Europe, Japan and Canada, took “horrible”, “unfair” advantage of America both on trade and military aid. The only ally that got a nod of approval was Giuseppe Conte, the new Prime Minister of Italy, because they shared a common anti-immigration stand. This conveniently overlooks the massive differences in their stand: Italy, in spite of the recent spat with France over immigration – now resolved – is still receiving immigrants and does not separate children from parents.

For Trump, all will change now. We need to realize, he tells us, that President Obama “lost” Crimea, he “gave it away”. And that happened because Putin “had no respect for Obama”. With him at the helm, disrespect like that can never happen again. He is making friends with the right people, he can call up North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un anytime. And Putin, he feels, should be back in the G7.

What next: A Series of Trade Wars?

The mass of falsehoods was bewildering. Some American journalists wondered whether the Republican party would finally react, for example, Chuck Todd, NBC News political director tweeted:

One can share with responsible American journalists their worries over Trump’s impact on America. But the GOP is solidly behind Trump. Nearly 90 percent approve the job he’s doing – especially on tax cuts and immigration. We will know whether America wakes up to the danger only after the midterm election results are in.

In the meantime, there is one area of more immediate concern: global trade.

The way I see it, we are headed for a world-wide recession if Trump does not put a stop to his trade wars. The tariffs on China come on top of the slew of tariffs recently announced – and some already implemented – against close allies in Europe, Japan, Canada. If you factor in the imperiled situation of NAFTA, the future looks bleak. 

Inevitably, as we have learned from History, retaliation is the main concern. In the 1930s, retaliatory measures were called “beggar-my-neighbor policies” and they plunged the world in a decade-long depression that only ended with World War II. As the New York Times noted ominously, just the fear of a trade war is enough to rattle the world economy.

The other concern is the instability Trump introduces in international trade. Business hates political instability and not knowing when the next trade barrier will be raised. Instability discourages investment and job creation. A trade war, contrary to what Trump hopes, will make America Small Again.

Bart Chilton, former commissioner at the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) from 2007 – 2014 and author of a best-selling book denouncing investment fraud, “Ponzimonium: How Scam Artists Are Ripping Off America, makes the dangers very clear:

As I write, Trump himself must have felt he had gone too far, especially with America’s allies. To try and repair the damage done at the G7, he is resorting, as usual, to a series of lies. He accuses (who else?) the “Fake News Media” of misrepresenting what happened at the G7.

In fact, he claims in his latest tweets, that he has a great relationship with the G7 leaders :

He is close buddies with Germany’s Chancellor (Angela Merkel might beg to differ):

And of course, he loves European Union leaders:

What could they have been discussing, his tariffs on the European steel and aluminum industry or his plans to target the European car industry next?

Who is he kidding?

Update (17 June): His tweets to assuage America’s historic allies in Europe didn’t last long. As to his trade wars, he is characteristically mum about them. Instead, he immediately jumped back in campaign mode, denigrating the Democrats. Here’s his latest tweet :

It is interesting to see how Trump mirrors exactly what his critics think of him: It is Trump himself who has unleashed a “dark and dangerous period in American History!”

A few minutes later, the White House uploaded his “weekly address” focused as usual on things like securing borders and defeating the MS-13 “once and for all”. Same old music. Pounding us like soda pop ads. At some point, surely, people will start tuning out.

Editor’s Note: The opinins expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

Featured Image: The future Trump wants? For once, he is smiling. In this Nov. 11, 2017 photo, leaders pose during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam. Front left to right; China’s President Xi Jinping, Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, back left to right; Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo Credit:  Jorge Silva/Pool Photo via AP Philstar article




About the Author /

Claude Forthomme is a writer and an economist. A graduate of Columbia University, Claude held a variety of jobs before starting a 25-year career at the United Nations (Food and Agriculture), ending as Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia. She authored many fiction books under various pen names in both English and Italian; she is considered a prime exponent of Boomer literature and has founded the Boomer Lit Group on Goodreads. Her poetry has been included in "Freeze Frame", an international poetry anthology curated by British poet Oscar Sparrow (Gallo Romano Media, 2012).

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