Stock markets plunge after Trump’s ‘Tariff Man’ tweet

Stocks took a nosedive on Wall Street as investors worried that a US-China trade truce reached over the weekend wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank almost 800 points Tuesday.

Boeing and Caterpillar, two major exporters which would have much to lose if trade tensions don’t ease, weighed the most on the Dow.

Bond prices soared sharply, sending yields lower, as traders shoved money into lower-risk investments.

The sharp drop in yields hurt banks because it makes it harder to earn money from lending. JPMorgan Chase sank 4.5 percent.

The S&P 500 lost 90 points, or 3.2 percent, to 2,700.

The Dow dropped 799 points, or 3.1 percent, to 25,027. The Nasdaq fell 283 points, or 3.8 percent, to 7,158.

The markets plunged after President Donald Trump unleashed a threatening tweet Tuesday morning.

“President Xi and I want this deal to happen, and it probably will. But if not remember, I am a Tariff Man,” Trump tweeted.

[New York Post]

Trump tweets that tariffs are making the US “richer than ever before.” They’re not.

Either President Donald Trump isn’t sure how tariffs work or he’s being deliberately misleading about them.

The president fired off an early-morning tweet on Thursday declaring that billions of dollars are “pouring into the coffers of the United States” because of the tariffs his administration has put on some $250 billion in Chinese imports.

“If companies don’t want to pay Tariffs, build in the U.S.A.,” Trump wrote. “Otherwise, lets just make our Country richer than ever before!”

But that’s not really how tariffs work: The US may be generating some revenue from tariffs, but billions of dollars aren’t pouring in. Moreover, a lot of the money that is made off of tariffs comes from US consumers — not Chinese companies.

“If you think about who’s actually paying the tax, it’s like a sales tax. It’s like saying, ‘I put a sales tax on producers, isn’t this great we’re getting all this money?’ And then consumers say, ‘Wait, that’s from my wallet,’” said Michael Klein, a professor of international economic affairs at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and founder of the nonpartisan economics publication Econofact. “It’s just another example of taking where there’s a tiny germ of truth and blowing it up to the point where it’s absurd, for his own political purposes.”

On Thursday, Trump will travel to Buenos Aires for the G20 summit, where, among other agenda items, he’s expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping for a working dinner to discuss the countries’ relations, including trade. The sit-down is seen as high-stakes, given that the US has placed nearly $250 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods and China has levied retaliatory tariffs of its own. The escalating trade war poses a threat to both nations’ economies.

Tariffs don’t really work this way

The Trump administration has shown itself to be pretty into the idea of tariffs. It’s put tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from multiple countries as well as on several billion dollars of Chinese goods. The way tariffs work is that the goods marked for tariffs face a border tax when they’re imported into the US.

As Vox’s Matt Yglesias recently explained, the US government with its initial rounds of China tariffs was careful to make sure the products it targeted had foreign-made alternatives:

When that happens, US purchasers switch to non-Chinese alternatives, and then consumers from outside the US tend to switch around and start buying the Chinese products. The overall impact is slightly less efficient global supply chains, some real pain to Chinese firms that need to find new customers, and a limited impact on American prices.

In other words, thus far, things have been relatively tame. A recent study from EconPol Europe found that Trump’s first round of tariffs have increased the prices US buyers pay for Chinese-made goods by 4.5 percent and decreased the prices received by Chinese sellers of US-bound goods by 20.5 percent.

That means that thus far, the tariffs have been mostly, but not entirely, paid for by China, but it’s not going great for anyone. And if Trump’s meeting with Xi doesn’t go well and the trade war escalates, the economic effects of tensions could worsen.

And it’s not going to be making the US significantly richer, because the more tariffs, the less incentive to import the goods affected, and therefore the less money being collected.

“If the point of tariffs is to reduce what you’re buying, that means you’re not going to make that much money,” Klein said.

And much of the money that does come in will be from Americans themselves. Tariffs are often passed on to consumers, therefore driving up prices and, ultimately, inflation.

Trump, who is personally very wealthy, has been rather cavalier about the potential for prices going up. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week in which he appeared to float the idea of putting tariffs on iPhones and laptops, he said, “I mean, I can make it 10 percent, and people could stand that very easily.”

“Made in the USA” isn’t as easy as Trump makes it out to be

President Trump often makes the case that many of the United States’ trade and economic problems could be solved if companies would just do all of their manufacturing here. He’s attacked General MotorsApple, and Harley-Davidson, among others, for having operations outside the US.

But “build in America” (which, by the way, many of Trump’s companies didn’t) isn’t as easy as it sounds. Supply chains are global, so even when Trump thinks he’s hitting back at China over, say, the iPhone, he’s missing the fact that the product is sourced from a lot of places, and its supply chain spans many countries.

In an Econofact analysis last year, Klein and Harvard political economist Marc Melitz estimated that each iPhone 7 imported to the US was recorded as a $225 import from China, but of that amount, only $5 represents work performed in China, largely assembly. The remaining $220 corresponds to other parts of Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

“It always sounds good when a president sounds tough on trade and issues protectionist policies,” Wayne Lam, a principal analyst at the information and analytics firm IHS Markit, told me when discussing the iPhone earlier this year. “We just don’t have the sheer workforce size nor skill set to be good at consumer electronics manufacturing.”

[Vox]

Trump floats new auto tariffs in response to GM layoffs

President Trump on Wednesday hinted he may support new tariffs on auto imports as his latest response to General Motors’ decision to shutter U.S. factories and lay off workers.

In a series of tweets, Trump argued that a longstanding 25 percent tariff on light trucks has boosted U.S. auto manufacturers and that the same approach could work for cars.

”If we did that with cars coming in, many more cars would be built here and G.M. would not be closing their plants in Ohio, Michigan & Maryland. Get smart Congress,” Trump wrote.

The president said major auto exporting countries “have taken advantage of the U.S. for decades” and warned “that the president has great power on this issue.”

”Because of the G.M. event, it is being studied now!” he wrote.

The comments follow a report in the German media that Trump is considering slapping a 25 percent tariff on car imports from all countries aside from Mexico and Canada. Trump previously decided to put off auto tariffs on Europe in exchange for the European Union agreeing to purchase more American soybeans.

General Motors’ announcement this week angered Trump, who views the U.S. economy as a reflection of his presidency. The plant closures and layoffs, combined with a sputtering stock market and rising interests rates, appear to have sparked fears of an economic downturn and prompted Trump to lash out.

Trump blamed Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for the stock-market slide and the GM layoffs, citing his decision to raise interest rates. The president said he also spoke to GM CEO Mary Barra to relay his unhappiness with the decision and threatened to end GM’s federal tax credit for electric vehicles.

GM has said slow demand for cars in the U.S. market, combined with tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum, have hurt sales and forced the company to shutter plants in Lordstown, Ohio; Detroit-Hamtramck, Mich.; and White Marsh, Md.

The U.S. imposed a 25 percent tariff on imported light trucks in 1964 after France and West Germany imposed tariffs on U.S. chicken, hence the name ”chicken tax.”

[The Hill]

Trump at Jobs Event: If Midterms Don’t Go Well for GOP, ‘I Think You’re All Going to Lose a Lot of Money’

President Donald Trump claimed at a White House jobs event today with business executives that they will “lose a lot of money” in the markets if the Republicans don’t do so well in the midterms.

He talked about the markets being “so strong” and touted economic success before going on a tangent about the caravan before getting back on topic.

As the President continued, he made this prediction:

“We have an economy that’s the hottest economy right now in the world and I guess the stock market is up to––getting close to 50%, if you think about it, that’s incredible, since the election. In fact, I hear today, it’s doing well, Larry, it’s up another 400 points. It was up another 450 points or so yesterday. It is just doing well. I will say this, they’re waiting for the results of the midterms. And if the midterms for some reason don’t do so well for Republicans, I think you’re all going to lose a lot of money. I hate to say that. I think you’re going to lose a lot of money.”

Trump yesterday tweeted, “If you want your Stocks to go down, I strongly suggest voting Democrat.”

[Mediaite]

Trump: Now Ford can build Focus in U.S.; Ford: That makes no sense

Auto analysts groaned on Sunday in response to tweets sent by President Trump that touted his tariffs on Chinese imports and his claim that the trade war would inspire Ford Motor Co. to build its Ford Active crossover in the U.S. rather than overseas.

Wrong, Ford said.

The Dearborn-based company issued a statement in response to the president’s tweet:

“It would not be profitable to build the Focus Active in the U.S. given an expected annual sales volume of fewer than 50,000 units and its competitive segment. Ford is proud to employ more U.S. hourly workers and build more vehicles in the U.S. than any other automaker.”

Jon Gabrielsen, a market economist who advises automakers and auto suppliers, said, “This is further evidence that neither the president nor his trade representatives have any clue of the complexities of global supply chains.”

A trade war actually hurts one of America’s most iconic companies, Gabrielsen said. “This forces Ford to forfeit the sales they would have had if they could continue to import that low-volume niche vehicle.”

Ford on Aug. 31 canceled plans to import the Focus Active crossover from China to the United States because of costs from the escalating trade war.

“Given the negative financial impact of the new tariffs, we’ve decided to not import this vehicle from China,” Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford North America, told reporters.

The Focus Active was meant to take the place of the Ford Focus in the U.S. because Ford is phasing out the entry-level car as it shifts its production to pickups and SUVs. Focus Active was scheduled to go on sale in the late summer of 2019.

“Basically, this boils down to how we deploy our resources. Any program that we’re working on requires resources — engineering resources, capital resources,” Galhotra said. “Our resources could be better deployed at this stage.”

Tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump on Chinese products and the threat of more had a direct impact on the Aug. 31 decision, according to Ford officials. The United States already has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from China and, as of July, put a 25 percent tax on autos imported from China.

“Ford was pretty clear in its statement: Focus production will not shift in part or in whole back to the U.S.,” said Stephanie Brinley, a senior analyst at London-based IHS Markit.

Trump didn’t tweet about the Ford announcement at the time. On Sunday, he quoted the CNBC TV network and tweeted, “‘Ford has abruptly killed a plan to sell a Chinese-made small vehicle in the U.S. because of the prospect of higher U.S. Tariffs.'” CNBC. This is just the beginning. This car can now be BUILT IN THE U.S.A. and Ford will pay no tariffs.”

“Ford is one of the companies that has the highest U.S. content and the most U.S. autoworkers of any company,” said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of the Industry, Labor & Economics Group at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

“You know, their statement was very clear. It’s too costly to build that car here and they weren’t planning to. They don’t make business decisions based on tweets. They make decisions based on whether there’s a demand here for the vehicle and if it can be done profitably. Demand for small cars is waning, so they thought they would build some for the rest of the world and bring a few for folks here who want one,” Dziczek said.

Building the car may still be the plan, but not in the U.S., she emphasized, along with other analysts. At issue is finding low-wage production sites to maintain profit margins, and that doesn’t include the U.S. or Canada.

“This trade thing turns into Whac-A-Mole,” Dziczek said. “You can shut off China and things will come from India, Thailand, Taiwan, Poland, Slovenia. There are loads of low-cost countries for parts and vehicles.”

After touting his tariff plan, the president also cited tariff data that alarmed analysts.

“If the U.S. sells a car into China, there is a tax of 25%. If China sells a car into the U.S., there is a tax of 2%. Does anybody think that is FAIR? The days of the U.S. being ripped-off by other nations is OVER!”

Wrong again, Dziczek said. “China lowered the tariff rate from 25 percent to 15 percent for most-favored nation status — which is offered to World Trade Organization members — but raised it to 40 percent for the U.S. in retaliation to the tariffs we put on Chinese goods.”

She continued, “And the tariffs we charge for goods coming into the U.S. is 2.5 percent, not 2 percent. And then we put an additional 25 percent on cars coming from China into the U.S. So now they’re paying 27.5 percent. This is why Ford had to re-evaluate.”

American automakers ship about 250,000 vehicles a year from the U.S. to China, while China ships about 50,000 vehicles to the U.S. annually, Dziczek noted.

For example, every Buick Envision sold in the U.S. is made in China. General Motors has petitioned that the car be excluded from tariffs on Chinese-built products.

Ford spokesman Mark Truby emphasized Sunday that the company plans to build many new vehicles in America. “For example, we are starting production soon of the Ford Ranger in the factory just outside of Detroit where the Focus was previously built. We’re not defensive about building in America. Nobody does more than us. We also have to make a business case that works.”

[Detroit Free Press]

Trump threatens to pull out of WTO ‘if they don’t shape up’

President Trump on Thursday threatened to pull the U.S. out of the World Trade Organization (WTO) “if they don’t shape up,” a stance he has reportedly discussed in private but has denied publicly.

“If they don’t shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO,” the president told Bloomberg News in an interview.

Trump has long criticized the international body, saying in late June that the U.S. has been “treated very badly” by the group, describing it as an “unfair situation.”

At the time, the president insisted he was not considering pulling out of the WTO despite his frustrations, though Axios reported he had discussed with advisers his intentions to exit.

Leaving the WTO would upend the decades-old international trade system, which the U.S. helped establish, and roil markets around the globe.

The U.S. on Monday told the WTO that it plans to block the reappointment of one of the its four remaining judges, a move that would significantly hinder the organization’s ability to function.

If the U.S. successfully blocks the appointment of Judge Shree Baboo Chekitan Servansing, the WTO would only have three judges, the bare minimum to continue operations.

Two of the WTO judges’ terms expire in December of next year.

Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently agreed to work towards a trade agreement that would involve reforming the WTO.

Multiple nations have filed complaints about Trump’s escalating tariffs with the WTO, including China. Trump is reportedly planning to impose $200 billion tariffs on Chinese imports as soon as next week, on top of the billions of dollars of tariffs he has already implemented.

[The Hill]

Trump reportedly caught the Japanese prime minister off guard during a meeting at the White House by saying ‘I remember Pearl Harbor’

President Donald Trump reportedly caught Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe off guard with a comment about Pearl Harbor during a meeting at the White House in June, according to the Washington Post.

Trump reportedly said “I remember Pearl Harbor” to Abe in what was described as a “tense” meeting, referring to the attack by Japan on the United States that led to the US entering World War II.

Multiple diplomats spoke to the Post anonymously to describe the president’s increasingly fraught relationship with Abe, as Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum hit Japan’s economy and his policies on North Korea differ from Abe’s desired approach.

Trump reportedly ignored advice from Abe on negotiating with North Korea before meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore this past June, according to the report.

A diplomat could not explain the meaning of Trump’s comment about Pearl Harbor, but told the Post Trump appreciates historical references and mentions Japan’s “samurai past”.

Trump and Abe have had a largely positive relationship, often bonding on the golf course. Abe has even stayed at Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida during one of their many meetings.

The two have met eight times since Trump took office, which is more than any other world leader. And they’ve spoken on the phone 26 times, according to the Post.

Calling him his “good friend”, Trump sees Abe as a respected counterpart and a good negotiator, according to the report.

Meanwhile, Abe has lauded Trump’s leadership as “outstanding” and “remarkable”, and has not retaliated against Trump’s tariffs. Abe even gave Trump a gold-plated golf club worth $3,800, according to the Post.

https://www.businessinsider.com/i-remember-pearl-harbor-trump-told-japan-pm-shinzo-abe-report-2018-8

Donald Trump: ‘Our country was built on Tariffs’

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning took to Twitter, as he often does, to lambaste some of his favourite targets: the U.S. Justice Department, the “rigged Russian witch hunt” (a.k.a. the Robert Mueller investigation), and of course, undocumented immigrants.

He also brought up one of his past greatest hits, tariffs, writing that the United States was “built on Tariffs, and Tariffs are now leading us to great new Trade Deals” (capitalization his, not ours).

Of course, tariffs have been a mainstay in Canadian headlines for the past several months, with Trump levying duties on U.S. imports of Canadian steel and aluminum. The U.S. president has recently threatened more tariffs on Canada’s auto industry.

He’s also slapped massive duties on goods from China, Mexico and, most recently, Turkey. Those nations, along with Canada, have come back with retaliatory tariffs of their own.

Many users on Twitter are pointing out the holes in Trump’s latest tweet. Like the fact that no new trade deals have actually been signed:

Or that many of the people Trump claims his tariffs will help aren’t really happy with them at all:

The Wall Street Journal points out that Trump’s action against Turkey actually goes against longstanding U.S. policy of minimizing foreign crises:

[Yahoo]

Trump Insists Tariffs Will Make Our Country ‘Much Richer’: ‘Only Fools Would Disagree’

On Saturday, President Donald Trump praised his tariff plan and insisted, “steelworkers are working again, and big dollars are flowing into our Treasury.”

“Tariffs are working far better than anyone ever anticipated,” Trump tweeted out. “China market has dropped 27% in last 4 months, and they are talking to us. Our market is stronger than ever, and will go up dramatically when these horrible Trade Deals are successfully renegotiated. America First.”

Then in the first follow-up tweet, he added: “Tariffs have had a tremendous positive impact on our Steel Industry. Plants are opening all over the U.S., Steelworkers are working again, and big dollars are flowing into our Treasury. Other countries use Tariffs against, but when we use them, foolish people scream!”

He was not done yet.

A few minutes later, he tweeted again, writing, ” Tariffs will make our country much richer than it is today. Only fools would disagree. We are using them to negotiate fair trade deals and, if countries are still unwilling to negotiate, they will pay us vast sums of money in the form of Tariffs. We win either way.”

Trump then concluded: “China, which is for the first time doing poorly against us, is spending a fortune on ads and P.R. trying to convince and scare our politicians to fight me on Tariffs- because they are really hurting their economy. Likewise other countries. We are Winning, but must be strong!”

[Mediaite]

Trump says ‘vicious’ China targeting U.S. farmers on trade, urges critics to ‘be cool’

President Donald Trump on Wednesday blamed China for targeting U.S. farmers in an effort to undermine trade negotiations with Beijing, and he urged critics of his escalating trade war to “be cool.”

“China is targeting our farmers, who they know I love & respect, as a way of getting me to continue allowing them to take advantage of the U.S.” Trump posted in one of a series of tweets on Wednesday. “They are being vicious in what will be their failed attempt. We were being nice – until now!”

The tweets come as Trump’s trade policy is increasingly under fire from Republicans on Capitol Hill, especially those representing farm states where China’s retaliatory tariffs are affecting crop prices. The Trump administration rolled out a $12 billion subsidy plan on Tuesday to help farmers, but the measures were widely criticized by Republicans.

“When you have people snipping at your heels during a negotiation, it will only take longer to make a deal, and the deal will never be as good as it could have been with unity,” Trump wrote Wednesday. “Negotiations are going really well, be cool. The end result will be worth it!”

Trump is set to meet Wednesday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker after months of criticism directed at European tariffs. The two leaders are expected to discuss Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on European cars.

There is also a domestic political component to Trump’s trade and tariff policies.

Trump political advisers are clearly worried about how tariffs are affecting farmers, key sources of votes throughout the Midwest. They could be decisive as Republicans face tough election battles in November to keep control of the House and Senate.

The president himself expressed a rare note of anxiety in a speech to veterans Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo., a key agricultural state.

“The farmers will be the biggest beneficiary” of his trade policies, Trump said. “Watch. We’re opening up markets. You watch what’s going to happen … Just be a little patient.”

Trump travels Thursday to two more agriculture states, Iowa and Illinois.

[USA Today]

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