Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

President Trump has a lot of irons in the fire, and they're getting hotter.

President Trump is on his way back from Singapore, having just finished an unprecedented meeting with the dictator who rules North Korea. He cooled out in a nice hotel, watched cable news, did some tweetin’. Just like being at home!

That’s good to have some relative normalcy in there. Though he seems no worse for the wear, it has been a tumultuous few days for the Commander in Chief; before the trip to Singapore there was a rough weekend at a G7 summit in Canada, where he caught heat from politicians representing countries that are nominal American allies.

All are upset with him over his administration’s steel and aluminum (and possible auto) tariffs, which they call unfair, and against which they’re threatening retaliation. But the gang of erstwhile economic allies managed to end their time together with an agreement to sign a vague communique – a hallmark of any successful get-together of economic ministers – before the Canadian prime minister said something barely critical of Trump’s trade positions and Trump withdrew the U.S. signature, and …

… It ultimately doesn’t matter. Chronicling the president’s histrionics is a full-time job! Sometimes he just says crazy, cryptic things. All that matters is everybody left mad, Trump included, and is apparently going it alone, the way he likes it.

Meanwhile, the pressure on the White House to produce results from these fights will continue to ratchet up. The European Union didn’t cut a deal with the United States over these tariffs like others did. Canada (and Mexico) haven’t agreed to a renegotiated NAFTA. Instead, the Canadian government is planning tariffs on everything from ketchup to iron ore, and the EU’s targets will range from bourbon to blue jeans.   

Trump's trip to Singapore drew a lot of media attention, and a lot of skepticism. But it ultimately might just be a distraction. Trump will return to nasty fights over trade that he has started and stoked, and a big one – the actually important one – that is still looming: What is he going to do about China?

China, the world’s second largest economy, the country with whom the United States had a $635 billion goods trade relationship in 2017, the one the president promised ad nauseam to get tough with during his election campaign. China, with whom the administration’s initial trade negotiations have gone nowhere; the country that is apparently very pleased with the results of the president’s meeting with Kim Jong Un; the government for which Trump rolled over and rescued a giant, sanctions-breaking telecom company. The country with whom America's trade concerns should ultimately start and end

How is Trump’s fight with China gonna shake out?

It would be great if Trump had lined up the rest of the world to take on Beijing for its litany of market-altering industrial policies and rampant intellectual property theft, but that’s the stuff of wishful thinking. No. President Trump is very mad about dairy tariffs, and instead, this is gonna be a bilateral affair. More action – in the form of tariffs, of course – could come as early as this week. And the pressure on the Trump administration to produce something will continue to mount, just as it should.