Monday, June 10, 2019

Visiting Column #16 -- Tariffs and Diplomacy in the Land of Trump

Some brilliant clown who runs the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (I think his name is actually "Brilliant", but we don't critique names here, just ideas) was asked about President Trump's efforts to influence Mexico on immigration enforcement with a tariff threat.

I don't believe Mr. Brilliant's actual words are fresh in my mind, but he rambled on about what a terrible idea it was to link tariffs to foreign relations, because it would cost American consumers in additional price hikes on imported goods, blah, blah, blah.

Now let's recall that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is vehemently opposed to border security, since they are funded in part by large companies that rely on illegal immigrant labor because it's so darned cheap, human trafficking and drug cartels notwithstanding.  The old Chamber is no more interested in fixing the porous border for their own reasons than the Democrats are for their own reasons (i.e., illegals voting Democrat).

So Mr. Brilliant went to the same well that the Democrats have been going to, criticizing the president for doing things in a way that, you know, works, but using a strawman argument regarding higher costs to the consumer.

Now, "strawman" might not be the right term here.  Yes, if we were to impose tariffs on Mexico, certain items we import would become more expensive, like Corona Light and cars manufactured there.  It's not that this wouldn't happen.

It's that it won't.

The prices won't go up because ultimately the tariffs on imported goods from Mexico are not going to be imposed, and yes, I know that they have already been suspended as I write this.

You see, the tariff threat, while an absolutely real threat from President Trump, was never going to have to be imposed.  Mexico can absolutely not get into such a fight with this president; they will lose at a time when the Mexican economy cannot bear the loss of the American market or challenges to its entry there.  So they backed down, agreeing not only to protect their borders and act on illegal immigration, but to have to do so reliably, lest the tariffs be reimposed.

Donald Trump knew that; using strength is how he has operated his whole life.  He has been repeatedly frustrated by the USA being unwilling, under his predecessors, to leverage the economic might of our country when it is in the interests of the people of the USA.  He is perfectly willing to do so and, here, he has.  To his delight (but surely not surprise), it actually worked -- the Mexicans were absolutely sure that he would indeed impose tariffs if they did not act, and it was less painful just to act.

They folded like a cheap suit.

The same lesson is not lost on the Chinese, the EU and others who have taken advantage of previous presidents.  This president has no problem doing what is in the best interest of his own people, at the expense of other countries over which he has no authority and almost as little interest.

Do not for a moment think that many, if any, tariffs, actually will need to get imposed; they are a threat but not a bluff.  No other economy can stand the suspension of access to the American marketplace, and they will do what is necessary to stay connected, even if it means capitulating to President Trump, the first president in memory to be willing to put America first in this regard.

Mr. Brilliant, as we know, does not want the border fixed; he wants a regular flow of cheap labor no matter what.  But there's no excuse for Nancy Pelosi or anyone else worrying out loud about how tariffs will hurt the American consumer (whom they never worried about before Trump anyway).

They know now that those tariffs will never happen, and that we have only scraped the surface as far as using our economic leverage to achieve political gains with our allies and adversaries.  Of course, since the American left should be supporting those tariff threats, in that they represent a way to achieve positive gains for the USA, they should absolutely be supporting President Trump and not opposing him.

It would be so much more helpful if our economic adversaries looked at Washington and saw a united front, saw that both parties were willing to stand up to the rest of the world and say "Enough" to their abuses.  China would roll over in a heartbeat, even though they will likely do so regardless.  But at least they would see that "waiting out Trump" would not be a viable option.

But Donald Trump wants what is good for the USA, we know now.

The Chamber of Commerce and the Democrats, well, not so much.

Copyright 2019 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There are over 1,000 posts from Bob at, and after four years of writing a new one daily, he still posts thoughts once in a while as "visiting columns", no longer the "prolific essayist" he was through 2018, but still around.  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton

1 comment:

  1. One puzzling aspect is that all the arguments against the Chinese and Mexican tariffs are made as if the tariffs are permanent, as in the way we used them in the past. I assume that they know that the argument that these are temporary tactics, which could last a while, of course, ends up supporting the president's approach.

    I'm a free trader, but something has to be done about the way China is abusing trade. I'm less positive that Mexico should have had tariffs, except that they quickly came to the table, and you really can't argue with success. I believe that most Americans quietly back the president's approach, and fervently hope this doesn't last long.