Monday, May 6, 2019

How to navigate Trump's trade gambit

President Trump surprised the market on Sunday with a tweeted threat:

Notwithstanding his misunderstanding that tariffs are not paid by the Chinese, but American importers, this tweet sounds like an effort to put pressure on China, just as Vice Premier Liu He is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Wednesday with a large (100+) trade delegation for detailed discussions. News reports indicate that both sides have given significant ground, and a deal may have been possible by Friday.

In response to Trump's tweeted threat, the WSJ reported that the Chinese may reconsider making their trip to Washington because "China shouldn't negotiate with a gun pointed at its head". CNBC subsequently report indicated that the Chinese are preparing to visit Washington, but with the delegation size will be reduced, the timing of the visit is not known, and it is unclear whether Vice Premium Liu He will be in the group.
A Chinese delegation will come to the U.S. this week for trade talks after President Donald Trump upended negotiations by threatening new tariffs on Sunday, according to sources familiar with the matter.

One of the sources briefed on the status of talks said the Chinese would send a smaller delegation than the 100-person group originally planned. It is unclear whether Vice Premier Liu He would still helm this smaller group, an important detail if the team were traveling to Washington with an eye toward sealing a deal. Two senior administration officials described Liu as "the closer", since he had been given authority to negotiate on President Xi Jinping's behalf.

The team from Beijing was set to start talks with American negotiators on Wednesday as the world's two largest economies push for a trade agreement. It is unclear whether the talks will still start Wednesday.
Another encouraging sign was the report that Chinese media censored Trump's tweets, which could be interpreted as a signal that Beijing did not want to unnecessarily escalate the conflict. The front pages of the two major Chinese news portals had no mention of Trump's threats.

US tariffs are already higher than most developed market economies. If implemented, the new levels would be higher than most EM economies, and have a devastating effect on global trade.

I spent Sunday responding to emails and social media inquiries about how to react to this news. In many ways, it was more exciting than watching the latest episode of the Game of Thrones.

The full post can be found here.

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