The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

One-Handed Clap

08/15/2019

I applaud President Trump for — finally — dealing with the trading abuses of China.  However, as I’ve written many times, I wish we did not negotiate three different trade problems at one time.  Contrary to popular belief, NAFTA II is still not complete, as Mr. Trump has not negotiated with the House to pass the bill.  The nascent European negotiation has focused on cars and has been gummed up by defense spending disagreements.  It is hard not to suspect our negotiating position with China would not improve if we had allies.

Also, it is surprising that an egocentric egomaniac cannot understand the concept of “face” to the Oriental mind.  Negotiation 101 teaches us that everybody must get some bragging rights.  President Xi must be allowed to save face.  Trash-talking the other side is seldom a winning strategy.  Twitter has now been proven to be a poor tool in negotiating (or governing).

President Ronald Reagan’s philosophy of negotiating was “Anytime I can get 80% of what I want, I’ll take it and come back the next day for the remaining 20%.”  Pushing China for one big grand bargain puts too many moving pieces on the table.  There are already numerous points of agreement between the U.S. and China that could be formalized today.  Take them and then brag about them, if you must, on Twitter!  The stock market would love that.

It is easy to complain about techniques and methods, but it is even easier to forget the mission of correcting China’s unfair trading practices.

We must succeed, which is different than saying . . . We must win!

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