According to those close to Trump, he is planning on tackling trade within the next month.
In private meetings:
Trump keeps asking for tariffs — on steel and aluminum, in particular. He wants a trade war, and has for many years. His economic and diplomatic advisers persuaded him to delay trade actions in 2017.
- Those advisers recognize that the day of reckoning will come in 2018, regardless of whether economic adviser Gary Cohn and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — who advocated restraint — stay or go.
- Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin successfully persuaded Trump not to do anything rash while tax reform was being negotiated.
- Trump also saw the advantage of trying to use that as leverage with China to get help on North Korea. He said yesterday in an interview with the N.Y Times: “China’s hurting us very badly on trade, but I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war. O.K.?”
- And he tweeted yesterday, in response to Chinese ships secretly delivering oil to North Korea: “Caught RED HANDED – very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!”
- NEW: Look for Trump to take action on trade in the next month. It probably won’t be next week, so as not to disrupt the afterglow of the tax cut. But nothing is final.
This is certainly a risky strategy for President Trump. North Korea is still a threat and China is not going to take kindly to Trump’s trade attack on them. Is it something that needs to happen? Sure. In 2016 the United States had a $347 billion dollar trade deficit and our debt to them is 1.7 trillion. It is going to be a challenge but it is one that Trump must take on.