President Donald Trump yesterday changed the date that tariffs on certain giftable consumer goods produced in China will be imposed, providing some early holiday cheer for retailers. Wall Street also liked what it heard and finished 372.54 points higher than Monday’s close, giving the President something he likes to tout as a barometer of his economic sagacity.
The President “unexpectedly put off new tariffs on many Chinese goods, including cellphones, laptop computers and toys, until after the start of the Christmas shopping season, acknowledging the effect that his protracted trade war with Beijing could have on Americans,” writes Ana Swanson for The New York Times.
“Mr. Trump pushed a 10% tariff on some imports to Dec. 15 [from Sept. 1], and excluded others from it entirely, while facing mounting pressure from businesses and consumer groups over the harm they say the trade conflict is doing,” Swanson adds.
“We’re doing this for Christmas season just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on U.S. customers,” Trump told reporters in front of a whirling helicopter waiting to take him to what turned out to be a quintessentially rambling speech at a Shell Oil plant in Pennsylvania.
“I think this is the president saying, ‘I don’t want the stock market to go down any more,’” “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer said on CNBC after the news broke.
“Over just the last few days, economists at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America all warned that Trump’s bitter trade war with China is taking a bigger bite out of economic growth than expected. The warnings came as stocks suffered another big dip on Monday with the Dow closing off nearly 400 points, or 1.5%, putting the blue-chip index at 25,897, over 700 points lower than it was in January of 2018 before Trump’s trade fights began in earnest,” Ben White writes for Politico.
“The president has transitioned from boasting about stock market gains to blaming the Fed for recent declines and softness in the economy. Overall economic growth cooled to a 2.1% pace in the second quarter after nearly hitting Trump’s goal of 3% last year following a round of tax cuts and higher federal spending. And he’s promised that he will win the fight with China,” White adds.
“The move comes after a phone call between U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer, treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and top Chinese negotiator Liu He in which the parties agreed to pick up negotiations by phone within two weeks, according to a statement from the Chinese commerce ministry. There was no mention of whether negotiators would meet in person next month in Washington as previously scheduled,” Donna Borak, Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak report for CNN Politics.
“Trump and aides have been spooked by the markets’ turbulence for the past several days and the President had been encouraging officials to find ways to turn it around as markets have continued to slide. In his comments to reporters, Trump said his negotiators had a positive call with their Chinese counterparts, and that ‘they would really like to make a deal,’” they add.
“Lighthizer’s office also said Tuesday that it planned to exempt other unspecified Chinese imports from the tariffs ‘based on health, safety, national security and other factors.’ That could be anything, which makes the targets of the tariffs all the more uncertain and seemingly random -- or, worse, subject to lobbying and political influence,” writes Jon Healey, the deputy editorial page editor of the Los Angeles Times.
“But then, we’re not talking about rational economic policy here. The president clings publicly to the fiction that the tariffs he imposes are paid by the Chinese rather than the American importers, businesses and consumers who actually foot the bill. He pretends they are uniquely damaging to China, when in fact they’ve disrupted U.S. supply chains and fueled retaliation by China against U.S. exporters -- particularly farmers.”
Speaking of farmers, among the President’s bizarre claims yesterday, which CNN’s Daniel Dale tweeted real time, he “falsely suggests that the US only exports ‘wheat’ to Japan, then says Japan doesn't even want the wheat it buys from the US, ‘they do it to make us feel good.’ (???).”
“They send us thousands and thousands, millions, of cars,” Trump said. “We send them wheat. Wheat! That’s not a good deal.”
“But the website of the U.S. Trade Representative -- part of the executive office of the President -- notes that wheat is just $698 million of $120.4 billion in U.S. exports to Japan,” Ed Mazza points out on HuffPost.
Meanwhile, “Trump has directly asked Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to buy farm products worth a ‘huge amount,’ Kyodo news agency reported on Tuesday, citing unidentified Japanese and U.S. government sources,” according to Japan Today.
Presumably he did so in a normal tone of voice.