A collective sigh of relief ought to be heard across the Pacific if Donald Trump and Xi Jinping manage to settle their differences over trade when they meet at the G-20 summit in Tokyo next month. But if they don’t, that could lead to another scenario President Trump has been warned about. The Chinese might be patient enough to wait for the 2020 U.S. presidential election to relieve them of their tormentor.
If the dispute drags on for many more months, the odds seem to favor China’s chances of outlasting the Trump administration. At the moment, sad to say, it is the more politically stable and united of the two trading powers. Xi is secure in his seat, effectively president for life. Although the Robert Mueller report on alleged Trump collusion with Russia has turned out to be a dud, the president still has to survive a hail of microaggressions from the Democratic Party and an unloving press before he can be returned to the White House in 18 months.
U.S. stakeholders are divided over whether the tariff war is worth the pain. Some even question whether Trump should have picked this fight. Republican farm-state governors are torn between their concern about dwindling exports of soybeans and pork products to China and their obligation to push the president s agenda.
Trump has at best only the qualified support of big industry. He is opening markets for them in China, but what he really likes them to do is bring their investment money back to America. Sen. Marco Rubio even blames some U.S. corporate chieftains for worsening the trade quarrel because of the bad deals they made with Beijing.
Are Trump’s Methods Appropriate?
Even if the president is doing the right thing, economists question his methods—to many, tariffs are an obscenity. Americans haven’t heard tariffs lauded this much as a means of raising revenue since the days of William McKinley. Some would appreciate the $30 million in tariff revenues the president is saving for distressed American farmers, but not enough to forgive him for his economic heterodoxy.