Paul Krugman: Trump's 'cowardly bully' routine failed miserably in the Chinese trade war
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania visit the Forbidden City with China's President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Paul Krugman was never a fan of President Donald Trump's trade war with China — and now that reports suggest it may be coming to a close with nothing like the victory Trump promised, he argued in a new column Monday that his skepticism has been vindicated.

"The Trump administration will, of course, trumpet the deal as a triumph," wrote the Nobel-Prize winning economist and New York Times op-ed contributor in a new piece Monday. "In reality, however, it’s much ado about nothing much."

He explained that reports indicate Trump will have no real substantive wins against the Chinese trade practices that draw so much ire. Instead, it appears he'll get a few agreements from China to buy some American products and adjust a few investment and competition policies. None of this, Krugman noted, will address China's disputed abuse of intellectual property or the bilateral trade deficit, which is, in any event, a phony concern.

"Why is the president who famously declared that 'trade wars are good, and easy to win' effectively waving the white flag? Mainly because winning turns out not to be easy, at all," said Krugman.

He also argued that, for the minuscule concessions gained, Trump has done real damage to U.S. standing abroad.

He explained:

The whole world now knows two things about us. First, we’re not reliable — an agreement with the U.S. is really just a suggestion, because you never know when the president will invent some excuse for breaking it. Second, we’re easily rolled: The president may talk tough on trade, but in classic bully fashion, he runs away if confronted.

On U.S. unreliability, consider the way the current administration has treated Canada, probably the friendliest neighbor and firmest ally any nation has ever had. Despite generations of good relations and a free-trade agreement, Trump imposed large tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel, invoking national security as a justification. This was obviously specious — in fact, Trump himself basically conceded this point, justifying the tariffs instead as retaliation for Canadian dairy policy (which was also specious).

The lesson for the world is that America can’t be trusted. Why bother making deals with a country that’s willing to slap sanctions on the best of allies, and clearly lie about the reasons, whenever it feels like it?

Of course, all of the problems with Trump that have led us to this place have been obvious from the start. He's a reactive and impulsive bully with no deep policy understanding. He's a con man who will promise you the world and give you a worthless certificate from Trump University instead. He lies constantly about everything and anything. And he has no interest in the long-run betterment of the country or the world — only his own short-term gain.