Trump’s victory lap: “Tariffs are a beautiful thing when you are the piggybank”


After winning a face-off with Mexico, Donald Trump told CNBC that China will be next to fold. The president scoffed at the US Chamber of Commerce and critics from both parties over their opposition to tariffs as a means to equalize what Trump sees as bad trading and security relationships. “Tariffs are a beautiful thing,” Trump declared, “when you are the piggybank”:

“People haven’t used tariffs, but tariffs are a beautiful thing when you are the piggy bank, when you have all the money, everyone is trying to get our money,” Trump said during an impromptu phone interview on “Squawk Box. ”

Trump said his threat to impose tariffs on Mexico encouraged the country to agree to stronger immigration enforcement, and predicted that the strategy would be successful with China as well. The president also again pushed the idea that tariffs will push companies to move jobs to the U.S.

“The China deal is going to work out. You know why? Because of tariffs. Because right now China is getting absolutely decimated by countries that are leaving China, going to other countries, including our own,” Trump said.

China, he said, is “going to make a deal because they’re going to have to make a deal. ”

Trump was happy enough with the interview to tweet out a couple of clips. In one, he criticized the Fed for “quantitative tightening” and said that they should take more of his advice. The other clip featured his prediction that China has no choice but to cut a deal. It’s Trump’s first weekday opportunity to take a victory lap, one that most of his critics thought wouldn’t be possible.

Since his triumphal announcement on Friday, critics have tried to undercut the idea that tariffs won anything from Mexico. The New York Times followed up on Saturday by claiming that Mexico had largely agreed to the same terms in March:

The deal to avert tariffs that President Trump announced with great fanfare on Friday night consists largely of actions that Mexico had already promised to take in prior discussions with the United States over the past several months, according to officials from both countries who are familiar with the negotiations.

Friday’s joint declaration says Mexico agreed to the “deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border.” But the Mexican government had already pledged to do that in March during secret talks in Miami between Kirstjen Nielsen, then the secretary of homeland security, and Olga Sanchez, the Mexican secretary of the interior, the officials said.

The centerpiece of Mr. Trump’s deal was an expansion of a program to allow asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their legal cases proceed. But that arrangement was reached in December in a pair of painstakingly negotiated diplomatic notes that the two countries exchanged. Ms. Nielsen announced the Migrant Protection Protocols during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee five days before Christmas.

Trump lashed out at the report this morning on Twitter:

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Did Mexico agree to these terms in December and March? On asylum, yes; in fact, the Trump administration openly celebrated that agreement and then had to defend it in court. Mexico had been balking recently at the numbers involved, though, and it’s far from clear that Mexico agreed to the asylum arrangement for anything more than the short term. Perhaps they also agreed on securing their southern border, but if so, they must have been dragging their feet on implementing that security. Mexico only deployed significant numbers of National Guard troops to their southern border after Trump issued his tariff threat, for instance.

Trump hinted that the negotiators reached a broader deal than anyone yet knows. That part will require ratification in Mexico, and Trump hinted that the tariff threat might return quickly if their legislature doesn’t play ball:

Is Trump telling the truth? Mexico’s US ambassador said yesterday that the deal didn’t include large-scale purchases of American agriculture, as Trump also claimed on Friday, so perhaps we should wait for the entire agreement to be unveiled. It’s still clear that Trump moved Mexico into tougher security arrangements, a move that they were reluctant to take before the tariff threat. It might not be the wisest course of action, but so far it seems to be working — at least with Mexico. China’s mileage may vary.

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