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Trump’s China quagmire both an opportunity and cautionary tale for Dems

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Criticism for President Donald Trump on trade during the latest round of Democratic primary debates comes even as the White House seemed to be inching towards relieving some of the tensions with China — and it also reveals the challenges both parties will have balancing populist impulses with voters’ desire for a strong economy.

China said on Friday it would exclude American soybean and pork exports from additional tariffs. Earlier this week, Beijing said it would pull 16 American exports from the list of goods on which it planned to impose tariffs. Trump announced on Wednesday that he would delay by two weeks the imposition of an additional 5 percent tariff on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods that had been scheduled for Oct. 1.

“I think there might be less or delayed escalation. Both leaders have an interest in that right now,” said Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, citing the unrest in Hong Kong and the upcoming 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China along with worsening economic indicators in both countries.

Although this would suggest an easing of tensions in the short term, international trade experts say it also is a dynamic that narrows the window of opportunity for the White House to forge any kind of grand bargain.

“As the conflict has gone on over the course of the last year, I think people have gotten a lot more pessimistic,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at the Independent Advisor Alliance.

As hopes for a resolution that addresses key thorny topics like intellectual property protection fade, investors are just hoping for calm, he said. “At this point in the trade conflict, I think people feel like the best-case scenario is some kind of truce or a thawing in tensions, not a deal.”

“If you’re Xi Jinping, I would say, ‘Why should I cut a deal with Trump?’” Kirkegaard said, suggesting that China might prefer to deal with a less volatile administration. “They’re predictable in a way that Trump is not, and I think that has a lot of value for the Chinese, and other countries.”

The president’s trade policy was blasted as “haphazard” by hopeful Democratic presidential candidates during Thursday night’s primary debate. Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., landed the sharpest dig of the night, accusing Trump of “treating our farmers and our workers like poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos.”

“The big takeaway from the debates is that they didn’t try to mimic Trump on China. They’re realizing, as is the administration, that this trade war is beginning to hurt.”

The characterizations they used, though — and what they didn’t say — reveal an important distinction that could have ramifications for the U.S. economy not only in the near term, but also after the 2020 election, said Michael O. Moore, a professor of economics and international affairs at George Washington University.

“The complaints was about tactics — it wasn’t about the goal,” he said. “The goal seems to be to change the current global trading system and both sides want to take credit for that fundamental shift.”

Traditionally, labor-aligned Democrats have been the party more leery of globalization and free trade agreements, but most are loathe to openly champion a cause that has been a fixture of Trump’s presidency — and that is inflicting increasing economic harm.

“I actually think the big takeaway is that they didn’t try to mimic Trump on China,” Kirkegaard said. “I think it’s because they’re realizing, as is the administration, that this trade war is beginning to hurt. As these new rounds of tariffs come in, people are going to be paying more.”

There are signs that markets and voters alike are growing warier of the potential for damage — raising the stakes for both parties. Earlier this week, a CNN/SSRS poll found that just 48 percent of registered voters approve of Trump’s handling of the economy — a drop of eight percentage points since April, while the U.S.-China Business Council warned that more than a million jobs could be lost in a trade war.

The bipartisan spread of populism is changing the equation and reshuffling traditional alliances. “To a small extent, I think President Trump has broken that mold,” Zaccarelli said.

“There has been that nativist, economic nationalist impulse in the Republican party. It’s just been a fringe traditionally,” Moore said. “All those groups are now much more ascendant in both parties.”

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Hillary Clinton attacks 'authoritarian leader' Boris before saying she ‘fears' for Brits

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HILLARY CLINTON blasted Boris Johnson as an “authoritarian leader” in a shocking attack as she claimed she “fears” for the UK.

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‘Of course’ Trump was wrong to ask China to probe Bidens

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Sen. Ted Cruz said Sunday that it was wrong for President Donald Trump to call on China to probe former Vice President Joe Biden and his son in the Texas Republican’s most direct rebuke of the president yet.

Asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation” whether Trump’s comments were “appropriate,” Cruz said “of course not.”

“Elections in the U.S. should be decided by Americans and it’s not the business of foreign countries, any foreign countries, to be interfering in our elections,” he said.

“Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan then asked if it was improper for Trump to ask Ukraine to probe the Bidens, as he did in a July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy — a call that is now at the center of an impeachment inquiry.

“Listen, foreign countries should stay out of American elections,” Cruz said. “That’s true for Russia. That’s true for Ukraine. That’s true for China. That’s true for all of them. It should be the American people deciding elections. I don’t know what [Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has] been saying. I do know though that we should decide our elections. It should be the American people making those decisions.”

But Cruz added that it would make “sense” for Giuliani, who is at the center of the president’s campaign to have Ukraine investigate the Bidens, testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has already invited Giuliani to do so.

“I’d like to see Rudy testify,” Cruz said. “Yes.”

Cruz’s comments come as Republicans have struggled to align on their responses to Trump’s requests to have Chinese and Ukrainian officials investigate the former vice president and his son. Some Republicans defended Trump’s China remarks by saying the president wasn’t “serious” despite Trump never having indicated he was joking.

Asked Thursday about whether he was serious about calling on China to investigate the Bidens, Trump said, “China has to do whatever they want.”

“If they want to look into something, they can look into it,” the president continued. “If they don’t want to look into it, they don’t have to. Frankly, are far as I’m concerned, if China wants to look into something, I think that’s great. And if they don’t want to, I think that’s great too. That’s up to China.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he “can’t comment” on whether Trump was serious in his ask to have China investigate the Biden family.

“I can’t comment on whether he was serious or not,” Mnuchin said, adding that the topic had not been brought up in trade negotiations between the two countries. “And in the Oval Office, when the president was asked about this in front of the Vice Premier, the president made very clear, they can do what they want. So, again, people who are trying to imply that the president is asking for things or quid pro quos, I think this is ridiculous.”

The president began ramping up his push to have China probe Hunter’s business dealings this month in the face of House Democrats’ rapidly escalating impeachment probe.

“China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine,” Trump told reporters outside the White House earlier this month.

The president has repeatedly accused the former vice president’s son of using a 2013 trip on Air Force Two with his father to procure $1.5 billion from China for a private equity fund he had started. There has been no evidence of corruption on behalf of either Biden. The Washington Post found Trump’s claims false. And a spokesman for Hunter Biden said he did not acquire an equity interest in the fund until 2017, after his father had left office. Meanwhile, Hunter’s total capitalization from the fund at the time amounted to about $4.2 million, not the $1.5 billion Trump alleged.

On Sunday, Hunter announced through his attorney that he would step down from the Chinese-backed firm by the end of the month. Hunter’s attorney, George Mesires, wrote that the former vice president’s son “never anticipated the barrage of false charges against both him and his father by the president of the United States.”



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Brexit countdown: EU gives Boris 48 HOURS to strike deal – 'Significant work to be done'

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BORIS JOHNSON has been given a tight deadline of only 48 hours to secure an agreement with the EU as the scheduled October 31 withdrawal deadline creeps closer.

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