Trump’s Protectionist Policies Don’t Play Well Back Home

Trump recently returned to Washington after a 12-day tour through five Asian countries, during which he attended three summits.

“When we are confident in ourselves, our strengths and flags and history, other nations are confident in us,” Trump said in a speech at the White House upon his return home. “During our travel, this is what the world saw: a strong, proud and confident America.”

Indeed, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, Trump stood up for protectionism and against multilateral trade deals in contrast to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who viewed globalization as an irreversible inevitability.

The administration also announced the possibility of $250 billion worth in trade deals with China.

Most pundits reacted more harshly to Trump’s behavior and deals than not.

World Politics Review’s Joshua Kurlantzick claimed that the Asia trip, despite being the longest presidential tour in 25 years, didn’t accomplish much for American interests.

“Much of the Trump administration’s vision for U.S.-Asia ties … simply does not mesh with Asian nations’ own plans,” wrote Kurlantzick. “Trump actually made fewer demands of his hosts than previous U.S. presidents.”

Bloomberg’s Bruce Einhorn questioned the validity behind the $250 billion number.

While Einhorn acknowledged that “the wave of deals signals the potential for an easing of tensions between the two countries,” he notes that “many of the deals weren’t broken out into separate valuations.”

“The huge U.S. trade deficit with China — estimated at about $370 billion for 2017 — is driven by unstoppable and institutionalized dynamics,” wrote Michael Ivanovitch, a world economy analyst and doctor, for CNBC.

“Does he realize that ‘friendly appeals’ to China to voluntarily stop raking in hundreds of billions of dollars in its U.S. trade surpluses is a road to nowhere?” Ivanovitch argued.

The Chicago Tribune’s Christopher Balding dismissed the trade agreements Trump struck over the trip as hollow because they ultimately skirt away from important regulatory issues and benefit China much more than America.

“Flowing from their nationalist mindsets, Trump and Xi view the economic world in mercantilist terms,” Balding wrote. “If the Trump-Xi worldview of economics and negotiations takes place, we can expect not just great power transactional bargaining, but also a drift away from a principled liberal global order.”

“Trump literally has no idea what he’s doing and has no integrated strategy,” the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman wrote, condemning Trump’s protectionist and anti-climate change policy standpoints. “Unlike Xi, Trump’s given no thought to the big questions every effective leader starts his day with.”

In what seemed to some like a response, Trump slammed the New York Times on Twitter, calling their views on foreign policy “weak and ineffective.”

Indeed, despite the media’s biting criticisms of Trump’s protectionist trade positions with Asia and the president’s tour in general, as many as 65 percent of Americans have a positive view of Trump’s “American First” rhetoric.

It will be worth following how Trump’s supporters and general advocates of protectionist policies respond to the media largely criticizing the deals in question, in particular whether the trade criticisms will make voters question Trump or make them loathe the media even more.

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