It is a fact that China does not play fair in international trade; an orderly reckoning was overdue.
It is also a fact that President Donald Trump’s herky-jerky, escalating showdown with the United States’ largest trading partner, a skirmish that has metastasized into an all-out war, risks doing lasting damage to American businesses and consumers, as they are forced to pay rising prices on the road to promised victory.
Trump ran for president howling about the United States’ trade deficit with China as though it was some gaping wound in our national flesh.
In fact, while U.S. manufacturing has of course experienced shrinking pains as we’ve opened the gates to unfettered trade with Mexico, China and other nations, Americans have long benefited from low-cost products. We get something for that trade deficit in goods — which, ahem, hit a record $891 billion in 2018, under Trump’s policies.
What isn’t growing under Trump: American exports. And, now perhaps, stock prices.
As he fires more salvos and the trade war now expands to a new battlefield of currency, the Chinese economy is slowing, leading Beijing to hunker down, and widening American casualties.
Trump can promise ever more billions in tax dollars to hard-hit U.S. farmers, but he cannot and will not take the edge off American consumers who will see products get more expensive. Nor can he control investors spooked at the prospects of a new economic cold war.
Trade wars, Trump infamously said, are good and easy to win. They hardly ever have winners, and are especially bad when neither army’s commander-in-chief has an exit strategy.