His plans to try to cut China out of the U.S. supply chain sound an awful lot like the Trans Pacific Partnership
And Trump was kind of right: the TPP would not have brought jobs back to the U.S., which is why Bernie Sanders also opposed it. And it probably would’ve incentivized U.S. businesses to expand overseas operations. But not in China.
It would’ve moved tons of U.S.-bound production out of China, to other friendlier Pacific Rim countries with massive industrial capacity and huge labor forces. Like Vietnam, and Malaysia, and even Chile. By reducing tariffs and breaking down trade barriers. Which might’ve made a difference now in terms of acquiring and securing reliable supplies.
Because China was not part of that massive trade partnership Trump killed. The fact that so many people don’t realize that, and that the main reason for the TPP was pretty much to cut China out, was perhaps the now defunct (at least as far as the U.S. is concerned) trade treaty’s biggest flaw.
We think that was all in the name: the Trans Pacific Partnership. Tells you nothing. Pure bureaucrat-ese. Should’ve been called the “F*ck China Deal”. FCD. No better no worse than TPP. Just as snappy. Of course we’re not suggesting that for real. But we sort of are.
Because with a more explicit name revealing the deal’s true intentions, which were to outmaneuver China economically in its own backyard, it would’ve been far harder for Trump to kill.
And here’s the thing: the slapdash tap dance version Trump’s trying to throw together right now involves turbo-charging the whole thing by potentially piling more tariffs on China to the point at which it doesn’t make any sense for U.S. companies to do business there. And so they shift to places like Vietnam and South Korea and even Colombia, according to Reuters. Have a familiar ring to it?
Will that hurt and punish and shift blame to China for under-warning about the Coronavirus threat? Sure. But it’ll also hurt U.S. businesses and consumers at a time when they’re already hurting maybe more than they ever have in their lives.
But what’s the choice? There is no TPP. Which would’ve been in place, and would’ve been humming along right now. But ‘would’ve’ counts for nothing. There’s only now. And Coronavirus or not, the U.S. does rely on China as a source for way too many things.
So we can’t really take Trump to task for wanting to change that. Even though a large part of his motivation is to distract from his own flagrant failures in dealing with a gigantic public health crisis that he keeps trying to minimize his own role in. So 15 people going down to zero becomes 60,000 deaths, and when that’s eclipsed in just a couple of weeks after he said it, now becomes 100,000 people losing their lives and he’s done a good job. (As long as we’re momentarily veering off topic, we loved this piece by novelist Dave Eggers.)
It’s just that when you get rid of anything that’s meant to be proactive, and instead call it unnecessary, as Trump has: be it a White House pandemic response team, or a huge anti-China trade deal, then all you can do is react when you invariably get bit. That’s called having no plan; just meting out favors and punishments as you see fit.
One thing America is learning the hard way is no one can ever get ahead of a problem if all they do is play catch up.