The Corner

Economy & Business

Defending a Strategy That Doesn’t Exist

At first glance, Nicholas Phillips’s article on the homepage appears to be an attempt to defend President Trump’s trade policies with China as a wise geopolitical strategy that keeps being “misunderstood” by naïve and dogmatic free traders. Any economic pain that strategy entails for “consumers” is worth the geopolitical gain it promises.

But the concessions keep piling up.

— The president’s tweets about the trade war are contributing to the misunderstanding of his terrific policy.

— The administration as a whole has failed to make the geopolitical case for its geopolitical strategy.

— Some of our tariffs on Chinese imports should be rescinded.

— Selected businesses that are suffering from the tariffs, such as Xero Shoes, should get federal help to offset the effects of the trade war just as farmers do. (Don’t hold your breath waiting for that.)

— And threatening tariffs on neighboring countries such as Vietnam, as Trump has done, undermine the strategy.

It’s enough to make you wonder if the tariffs are part of a grand geopolitical strategy against China at all.

Earlier this week, President Trump rejected the idea that he should try for a coordinated strategy with other trading partners against Chinese abuses, saying that “the EU and all treat us VERY unfairly on trade also.” But what does that guy know about Trump’s policies? What does his trade rep’s office know about them?

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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