In His Final Days, Is Trump’s Approach to China Changing for the Better?
On literally his first day in office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed 12-nation trade agreement that was a work-in-progress holdover from the Obama administration.
Now Trump might spend his final days in office trying to undo that initial mistake.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the latest Trump administration plan to confront China’s unfair trade practices seeks to “create an informal alliance of Western nations to jointly retaliate when China uses its trading power to coerce countries.” If China boycotts imports—as it recently did to Australian coal—or otherwise applies economic pressure to a trading partner, the allied nations would be able to execute a coordinated response. An unnamed administration official tells the paper that “the West needs to create a system of absorbing collectively the economic punishment from China’s coercive diplomacy and offset the cost.”
A collective, rather than unilateral, approach to pressuring China? Wow, things are getting really crazy in the Trump White House these days.
Creating an informal economic alliance to counterbalance China in the Pacific was, of course, one of the TPP’s primary goals. Like all trade agreements, the TPP was not without its warts, but Trump’s criticism of the proposed pact was rooted in ignorance. He railed against the TPP during the 2016 campaign, condemning it as a “horrible deal” that was “designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone”—even though it was designed to do exactly the opposite.
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