Trade talks: ‘Extend and pretend’

Donald Trump

Donald Trump has been weakened by the impeachment process, with more than half the respondents in a recent Fox News poll wanting the troubled President impeached:

“A new high of 51 percent wants Trump impeached and removed from office, another 4 percent want him impeached but not removed, and 40 percent oppose impeachment altogether.”

Criticism in the right-wing press is growing, with Judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox News:

“A CIA agent formerly assigned to the White House – and presently referred to as the “whistleblower” – reported a July 25, 2019 telephone conversation that Trump had with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. That conversation manifested both criminal and impeachable behavior.

The criminal behavior to which Trump has admitted is much more grave than anything alleged or unearthed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and much of what Mueller revealed was impeachable….”

In an attempt to shore up his ratings, the embattled President has softened  his stance towards an interim trade deal with the Chinese.

“President Donald Trump said Friday that the U.S. and China had reached a “substantial phase one deal” on trade that will eliminate a tariff hike that had been planned for next week.

Trump announced the deal in the Oval Office alongside members of his economic and trade teams, as well as Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and his team, who were in Washington for negotiations.

Trump said the deal would take three to five weeks to write and could possibly be wrapped up and signed by the middle of November….”

The deal is likely to be limited in scope, which will suit China. More from NBC News:

“The White House and China are expected to announce that Beijing will buy more agricultural products, particularly pork and soybeans, from the U.S.

“It seems like they’ve already begun to buy pork,’ said Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, pointing out that a swine fever epidemic has decimated China’s domestic pork industry. “They want to contain domestic prices,’ he said. “They’re not doing this just to please Trump. They’re doing this because it suits them.’

While there is little expectation that the Trump administration would roll back existing tariffs, a further delay of two looming deadlines would send a key signal to the markets about the trajectory for future trade relations……”

None of the hard issues will have been addressed and an interim deal is effectively a retreat by the Trump administration:

Thornier — and more fundamental — trade issues pertaining to intellectual property protections, market access and America’s push for China to change its legislation around these and other contentious issues would likely fall by the wayside, analysts said. “There aren’t going to be any of these other issues addressed, unless Trump caves,’ Kirkegaard said. “It certainly doesn’t address any of the structural issues…he went to war for.’

….“It’s a ceasefire. It’s not a peace treaty,’ Kirkegaard said. “It’s what the Chinese wanted all along.”

This was always the likely outcome, with the US economy in a stronger position to withstand a trade war but Xi and the CCP stronger politically and able to absorb more domestic pressure than the fragile Trump administration.

What we are likely to get during Trump’s remaining time as President is more ‘extend and pretend’ — a ceasefire rather than a resolution of the underlying issues regarding protection of intellectual property and reciprocal market access.