Donald Trump likes to brag about his deal-making prowess. During his visit to the United Kingdom, he’s touting the prospects for a ‘very, very substantial trade deal.’ But even as he dangles sugarplums before the British, he’s blowing up another agreement that he wanted to complete before the 2020 election — the United-States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which is supposed to supplant NAFTA.
His attempt to fuse national security and nationalism in the form of a tariff on Mexico could end up torching his own presidency. Trump’s big idea — concocted by his aide Stephen Miller — is that he can pressure Mexico to crack down on immigration by pressuring it with tariffs. If he imposes the tariffs, which are set to begin at five percent on June 10 and rise to 25 percent by October, Trump could accelerate the slide of the American economy into a recession. Already the economy is showing signs of slowing down. The tariffs on Mexico, combined with the ones he has implemented against China, would pretty much wipe out the big tax cut that Trump signed off on in 2017 and ensure that Mexico doesn’t approve the new trade agreement with Washington. Trump is living in la la land: there isn’t much point in signing a free trade agreement if Trump is intent on subverting it before it’s even been approved.
But there is also another scenario that could take place that weakens Trump. Some congressional Republicans are talking about staging a revolt by overriding his national emergency determination that he has invoked to justify not only hijacking Defense Department funds for a wall on the southern border, but also to sock Mexico with tariffs. The Washington Post reports that Republican lawmakers are eyeing a veto-proof resolution of disapproval. But do they really have the stomach to defy Trump? Their real aspiration is to try and get Trump to back down before it comes to that. ‘I’m hoping that these meetings on Wednesday will kind of disarm that situation and maybe the Mexican government will figure out some things that they can do that would prevent this kind of plan from ever getting executed,’ Senate GOP whip John Thune told CNN. Administration officials are headed to Capitol Hill today to discuss their tariff plans with Republican lawmakers. In the end, Trump may seize upon a few token concessions from Mexico to declare victory and defuse another one of his artificially created crises. By what we have seen so far, we will be able to reach an agreement,’ Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon said Tuesday. ‘That is why I think the imposition of tariffs can be avoided.’
Still, to an extent that Trump may not recognize, his presidency could unravel quite quickly in coming months when it comes to the economy and foreign policy. China is hardening its line against Washington. Mexico could follow suit. In Britain, Jeremy Corbyn, an avowed foe, could become prime minister. In Israel his chum Benjamin Netanyahu is in trouble, prompting Trump to vent ‘that’s all messed up. They ought to get their act together.’ Nor is the news that his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is being transferred to Rikers Island, where he will be held in solitary confinement, apt to improve Trump’s mood, particularly given the fact that he cannot pardon his old chum for New York state crimes.
My, oh my. All Trump may have to look forward to are the July 4 celebrations that he plans to preside over in Washington. Perhaps he will take a leaf from Kim Jong-un who attended a musical performance by the wives of military officers in Pyongyang this past weekend that included songs such as ‘Our Leader Loved by People.’ Come to think of it, Trump might even invite Kim to Washington for the festivities to celebrate their falling ‘in love’ together.