Quick Takes: Trump’s Complete Incoherence on Trade

A roundup of news that caught my eye today.

* As you know, Trump is traveling in Asia this week. While there, he has been completely incoherent in his remarks about trade. Here’s what he said in China:

Donald Trump, a man who said on his march to the White House that China was responsible for the “rape” of American workers, now says it’s actually the US’s fault that the two countries have an unbalanced economic relationship.

Speaking to business leaders in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Trump said that he felt US-Chinese trade relations were “very unfair and one-sided.” But when it came to assigning responsibility for the uneven dynamic, he pointed the finger at his own predecessors rather than at Beijing.

“I don’t blame China. After all, who can blame a country for taking advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens?” Trump said, adding that previous US administrations are responsible “for allowing this trade deficit to take place and to grow.”

* He did a total about-face in Vietnam.

President Trump — in the harshest language on trade so far on his five-nation tour of Asia — told a regional summit in Vietnam that his administration “will not tolerate” continued trade abuses and that countries must “follow the rules” if they want to do business with the U.S.

The president’s speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Danang sounded at times less like a vision for the region than an airing of economic grievances. “The United States will no longer turn a blind eye to violations, cheating, or economic aggression. Those days are over,” he told representatives of the 21-member grouping.

* Meanwhile, the eleven other countries that were involved in TPP are continuing to make progress on an agreement without the U.S.

The 11 Trans-Pacific Partnership countries have reached an agreement on “core elements” of the trade pact, namely that all countries will adhere to strict labour and environment standards, a development Canada is championing as a major breakthrough after talks broke down earlier Friday.

A final agreement in principle is still in the works because the countries have not settled on all aspects of the deal.

Rather than our president, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Treadeau is stepping up to lead the way on progressive trade policies.

* At the end of the first week of deliberations, here’s where Republicans stand on tax reform.

Republican tax writers in the House and Senate scoured the U.S. tax code Thursday and shook the couch cushions for loose change, as one member put it, in an all-day struggle to find ways to pay for the deep tax cuts their leaders and President Donald Trump have promised.

By day’s end, the House Ways and Means Committee had hammered together a bill and sent it toward the House floor for a vote promised next week, while the Senate Finance Committee revealed a proposal it intends to mark up on Monday.

But there’s an elephant in the room. Both plans contain nearly $1.5 trillion in red ink in the first 10 years. Unless they eliminate the red ink beyond that — a tall order that would require major changes — the legislation will be subject to a 60-vote threshold under Senate rules, which could doom it to failure. An alternative is to sunset some of the provisions after a decade, but congressional leaders don’t want that.

* Paul Schwarzmann talked to some Republicans in Virginia who voted a straight Democratic ticket on Tuesday.

Michael Ross has been a loyal Republican for as long as he can remember. But voting in Virginia’s gubernatorial election Tuesday, the retired advertising executive said he rejected every Republican on the ballot and chose Democrats — whether he knew anything about them or not.

His reasons were not rooted in any particular candidate, issue or a change in political philosophy, but in an ever-expanding antipathy toward President Trump and the party that propelled him to the White House.

“I’ve been with the Republicans my whole life, but what the party has been doing is appalling,” said Ross, 72, as he was about to get a haircut Wednesday in Lorton, a suburb about 20 miles south of Washington. “It’s completely divisive, and the politics of this country has gone berserk. Trump has demonstrated that he doesn’t deserve to be president.”

* Here’s an interesting take from Nate Cohn:

* Sen. Elizabeth Warren is walking back some comments she made last week.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a new interview appeared to walk back her claim that last year’s Democratic primary was rigged, suggesting instead that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) showed “some bias” but that the selection process had been “fair.”

“I agree with what Donna Brazile has said over the last few days; that while there was some bias at the DNC, the overall 2016 primary process was fair and Hillary made history,” Warren said in a Wednesday interview with MassLive.

* Decision Desk HQ conducted a poll in the Alabama Senate race yesterday.

With the special election just weeks away, Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones are essentially tied in the latest Opinion-Savvy poll of likely Alabama voters. In the previous survey, Moore lead Jones by 5.7%. Jones holds a sixteen point lead among women, while Moore enjoys a twenty point lead among men. Beyond the horse race between the two declared candidates, voters were also asked about the allegations that broke in the Washington Post yesterday, and if Moore should withdraw from the race over them. An overwhelming share of those surveyed- 82.2%- were aware of the allegations. A majority of voters- 54%- do not think Moore should withdraw at this time. Among Republicans, that percentage soars to 72.9%.

We also asked voters if, given the option, they would vote for Moore, Jones, or write in current Republican Senator Luther Strange. With this added option, Moore trails Jones narrowly, 41.3% to 43.6%, with Strange getting 12.3% as a write-in.

* All I’ll say about this is, “Ditto!”

* Finally, this one goes out to all the women who are finally breaking their silence, as well as those who are wondering if they can.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.