The Trump administration’s zero-sum approach to international relations is now spilling over from trade to currency wars. After spending the best part of his 2016 campaign and the first three years of his presidency railing against foreign countries taking advantage of the United States on trade, Trump and his administration have started complaining in the past few months about currency manipulation. In doing so, it is bringing us back to the 1990s, or even the 1930s.
As some of my more patient friends know, I have been toiling away at a book on Chinese monetary history during the Interwar period off and on for some years. Immersing myself in the public and private words of the historic figures of the 1930’s has perhaps sensitized me to the propensity of even well-intentioned leaders to glide into chaos. That which is unthinkable inexorably becomes inevitable.
Today, five days after he tweeted this deadline and nine months since he first declared the intention to do so, President Trump raised the tariff on $200B of imports from China from the +10% first applied in March 2018 to +25%. The action follows China’s message to U.S. negotiators backtracking on a number of earlier promises to increase intellectual property protections.
“For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—but the myth— persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” John F. Kennedy, Yale University Commencement Address June 11, 1962