Despite Trump’s accomplishments in foreign policy, the Washington Post reported Tuesday that his methods pose more risks than potential.
In “Trump’s fluid approach to national and economic security is leaving his allies baffled,” the Post’s David Lynch and Damian Paletta argue Trump is “merging his national security and trade goals in a blur of tactical improvisation that risks alienating U.S. allies and opening American businesses to costly retaliation.”
The story focused on Trump’s decision last week to order the Commerce Department to investigate the U.S. auto industry, which “could lead to tariffs of up to 25 percent on foreign cars, arguing that a flood of imports has eroded the nation’s manufacturing base and threatened the nation’s security.”
If implemented, the sanctions would be “the latest sign of the president’s fluid approach to national and economic security that has left allies and adversaries baffled over U.S. intentions, according to foreign diplomats.”
The story offered one paragraph of explanation of why Trump might use this approach.
Past presidents kept “national security issues in one lane and trade policy in another lane,” it quoted Peter Harrell, a former official in the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.
“Trump is just more willing to make tradeoffs between the two.”
The rest of the article relentlessly bashes the approach, despite its successes.
The president “holds an expansive view of national security,” one in which “products like steel or passenger sedans are worrisome threats to the United States,” it reports. “Yet he also engages in freewheeling bargaining that treats vital strategic considerations as the equivalent of commercial factors, leaving negotiating partners unsure of his true priorities.”
Trump’s recent call to lift crippling sanctions against a Chinese telecom company – helping a company that had self-reported and fixed its violation and that does business with 300 American firms, in exchange for which the Chinese made multiple concessions on other trade fronts – exemplified his recklessness.
“The striking feature of Trump’s use of national security is the inconsistent and haphazard use of the term, so as to render it meaningless,” George Magnus, an associate at Oxford University’s China Center, told the Post. “What I see is Trump using national security as a blanket to obfuscate simple trade protectionism.”
The story then lined up criticisms from two Republican senators whose states have multiple foreign car manufacturing facilities, without mentioning that connection, and the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which always opposes trade moves.
It followed with comments from a George W. Bush administration economic official, the president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a group of multinational corporations, and the CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers – all of whom took shots at Trump’s management of trade policy.
It pointed out the sanctions hurt not just adversaries, such as China, but traditional allies, including Mexico, and that it will make it harder to confront Iran and North Korea.
“In the process of damaging our economy, they’re alienating all our allies,” Phil Levy, a White House economist under George W. Bush, told the Post.