China-US trade war on hold, deal pending

The risk of a trade war between the United States and China has diminished after a deal has been made, which means threatened US tariffs and counter tariffs from China may be scrapped.

Avoiding a trade war is better for both countries – and for world trade – than trying to win a war that would adversely affect both countries.

RNZ (BBC): Trade war on hold as US and China halt imposing tariffs

China and the US say they will halt imposing punitive import tariffs, putting a possible trade war “on hold”.

The deal came after talks in the US aimed at persuading China to buy $US200 billion of US goods and services and thereby reduce the trade imbalance.

The US has a $335b annual trade deficit with Beijing.

In March this year, Mr Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on Chinese imports – mainly steel and aluminium.

Beijing threatened equal retaliation, including tariffs on a number of US imports – among them aircraft, soybeans, cars, pork, wine, fruit and nuts.

Two days of talks ended in Washington DC on Friday with a framework agreement.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin…

…told Fox News on Sunday that China would buy more US goods “to substantially reduce the trade deficit”.

Concrete numbers had been agreed, he said, although he refused to disclose if this meant China was buying $200bn in return for the US threat to be lifted. US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross would travel to China soon, he said, to work on details, which would involve industries – not just the two governments.

“We are putting the trade war on hold. Right now we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework” of the agreement, Mr Mnuchin said.

But he warned that failure to implement it would result in the imposition of the threatened US tariffs.

Chinese vice-premier Liu He…

…said his visit to the US had been “positive, pragmatic, constructive and productive”.

He described a “healthy development of China-US economic and trade relations” which would result in enhanced co-operation in areas such as energy, agriculture products, healthcare, high-tech products and finance.

“Such co-operation is a win-win choice as it can promote the high-quality development of the Chinese economy, meet the people’s needs, and contribute to the US effort to reduce its trade deficit,” he added.

Mr Mnuchin said the new framework agreement included structural changes to Chinese economy to enable fair competition for US companies, but this would take time, China’s vice-premier said.

And, perhaps because of that, he said the two countries “should properly handle their differences through dialogue and treat them calmly in the future”.

That’s a much better threat than making public threats and launching a trade war. But as is normal with the trump administration, there is some uncertainty.

Reuters: U.S., China putting trade war on hold, Treasury’s Mnuchin says

Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow…

…told CBS “Face the Nation” it was too soon to lock in the $200 billion figure. “The details will be down the road. These things are not so precise,” he said.

Trump was in a “very positive mood about this,” Kudlow said.

However, he said there was no trade deal reached.

“There’s no agreement for a deal,” Kudlow told ABC. “We never anticipated one. There’s a communique between the two great countries, that’s all. And in that communique, you can see where we’re going next.”

One next step will be dispatching Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to China to look at areas where there will be significant increases, including energy, liquefied natural gas, agriculture and manufacturing, Mnuchin and Kudlow said.

So there is a lot of work to do yet.

Nikki Haley’s stand against White House wavering and waffle

President is well known to be unpredictable – he plays on it – but this has often resulted in mixed messages from himself and from White House staff. Discipline and co-ordination are often lacking, to the extent sometimes that the White House looks disorganised and confused. It can certainly be confusing.

This week U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley spoke on Russian sanctions, was slapped down by the White House, but she slapped back, and this prompted an apology.

Weekly Standard editorial: A Failure to Communicate

Tight messaging and internal discipline don’t make a presidency—the Obama administration was extremely disciplined in its public pronouncements, and it was a disaster in almost every respect. But the present administration suffers from an almost total lack of coherence in its communications to the public and that debilitation has consequences beyond mere politics.

The problem can be located in the Oval Office: When President Trump makes a decision, or reverses one, he doesn’t always tell the relevant people.

This week, it was U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s turn.

Haley wasn’t fired but reprimanded—wrongly. On Sunday, April 15, speaking on Face the Nation, she announced the imposition of new sanctions on Russia for its nefarious abetting of Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime. She said what she had thought, almost certainly correctly, was the president’s position: “Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday if he hasn’t already and they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use.”

… in this case she appears to have stated exactly what the cabinet had agreed to do.

Only later—evidently without bothering to apprise his subordinates—the president changed his mind. From Mar-a-Lago, Larry Kudlow, the president’s national economic adviser, contradicted Haley. She had, Kudlow told reporters, gotten “ahead of the curve” by announcing the new sanctions; the ambassador may have had “some momentary confusion about that.”

Another White House official told the Washington Post that Haley’s remark was “an error that needs to be mopped up.”

Haley responded to Kudlow curtly. “With all due respect,” she was quoted by Fox News’s Dana Perino as saying, “I don’t get confused.”

Later, and very much to his credit, Kudlow called Haley to apologize. “She was certainly not confused,” he told the New York Times. He was “totally wrong” to speak as he did.

What almost certainly happened is that the president balked on the sanctions, his national security team sans Haley agreed to the change, and either someone forgot to tell Haley or everyone did. This is what happens when a president and his staff haven’t quite established its decision-making process and fails to keep everyone informed.

It seems to be a common failing of Trump and his administration.

Trump famously values unpredictability. We wish he wouldn’t use it so often against his own staff.

It would be good if he didn’t use it so much against the US either. A chaotic presidency is high risk – some things may work out well, due to or despite Trump chaos, but it seems just a matter of time before mistakes or misinformation mires the country in major muck.

Haley has come out of this looking strong and bold, she is one of the star performers of a very mixed administration. And that has refueled speculation about her political ambitions.

The Hill: Haley spat fuels political chatter around White House

Nikki Haley’s public spat with the White House has underscored Trump World’s obsession about the political ambitions of people in the president’s orbit.

Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, raised eyebrows Tuesday when she hit back at the White House after top economic adviser Larry Kudlow accused her of being confused when she prematurely announced new sanctions against Moscow on Sunday.

Nonetheless, the comments had Trump allies saying that Haley is thinking too much of her own political brand.

“Clearly she has machinations for higher office and will do anything to continue rising, even if it eventually means throwing President Trump and his administration under the bus,” said one former White House official.

The White House tried to throw Haley under a bus, but she fought back and won.

It wouldn’t be difficult to look better than Trump (or Hillary Clinton). Haley looks like she would potentially be a big improvement.

A GOP strategist in contact with the White House said “there is no doubt” that Haley has eyes on a higher office, but that it is highly unlikely she will be running for the White House in the near term.

At the age of 46, Haley’s future in politics could go beyond Trump’s presidency — which his supporters expect to last through 2024.

Haley’s defenders say it is natural for her speak out to maintain her integrity when she is criticized publicly.

Integrity stands out amongst the current chaos because it is in short supply.

“She has to stand up for herself because she is being characterized as confused,” said the GOP strategist.

“I think it is a question of competency and she is obviously competent,” said the former White House official when asked about the president’s feelings about Haley.

The ambassador has not become enmeshed in the type of ethics scandals that have plagued other Cabinet heads and her charisma and outspokenness, while grating to some, can be an asset for the president.

“She is a well-spoken female conservative and for better or for worse, that goes a long way with a lot of people. There is a deficit of that in the GOP,” the former official said.

The US could do a lot worse than having Haley as president – like now (deliberate double meaning).