By Brian Tyler Cohen | Published on July 12, 2017
Donald Trump tweeted today the link to an article touting U.S. beef hitting the Chinese market. What he failed to mention, however, was that most of the measures that will be put in place were crafted by the Obama administration.
The US-Chinese deal for which the White House is praising itself simply “put hard dates on some previously announced steps,” which include opening access to American beef by July 16. Other aspects of Trump’s agreement stipulated that the two sides would “act as soon as possible and follow through in issuing guidelines” that former President Barack Obama’s administration had shaped.
More disturbing than the fact that Trump has taken credit for yet another one of Obama’s accomplishments is that he used it as justification to soften his stance towards China, whom he frequently promised to take a hard line against during his campaign. Before becoming President, Trump threatened to “impose tariffs of 45% on Chinese imports and [promised] to immediately label Beijing a currency manipulator.” He has done neither, opting instead to not only partner with Beijing, but recognize their plan to take initiative around the world on their own. David Loevinger, a former China specialist at the Treasury Department and currently a top Asia strategist for the investment firm TCW, said that this recognition “marked a contrast in strategy from the Obama administration, which sought to bring China into the international system and institutions, such as the IMF and the G-20, designed largely by the U.S.”
“This is a signal that for the near term, China is going to be taking the initiative,” Loevinger said.
Trump’s seemingly innocuous tweet all at once appropriates his predecessor’s accomplishment and touts a deal that – while admittedly expected to have little “meaningful effect on the $310-billion trade deficit that the U.S. had with China last year – effectively relinquishes further our global leadership to the Chinese. So much for Trump’s bluster about making “America First.” Fingers crossed we’ll at least be second, right after China.