Donald Trump’s top aides on Sunday downplayed the idea of US companies being forced to abandon China any time soon, as an edict from the president ordering businesses to start looking for alternatives has been met with skepticism.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economics advisor Larry Kudlow took to the airwaves from France, where Trump is participating in the G7 summit, to smooth out tensions in the business community prompted by Trump’s Friday tweet.
Trump said he has “no plan now” to bring US companies in line, and his aides quickly reinforced the message.
“He would have the authority to do that… He has not done that,” Mnuchin told “Fox News Sunday.”
Mnuchin said that authority comes from the somewhat obscure International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), a federal law passed in 1977.
The law grants the president powers to regulate international trade in the face of an “unusual and extraordinary threat” from abroad to US foreign policy, national security or the economy.
But it has never been used to tip the scales in a trade dispute.
“I think what he was saying is that he is ordering companies to start looking,” he added.
The Trump administration wants US businesses to operate in places where “trading partners respect us and trade with us fairly,” Mnuchin added.
Senior Trump aide Stephen Miller said in an interview with Fox News: “No American business ought to be wholly dependent on China. It’s not a good long-term investment.”
– ‘Come back to the USA’ –
On Friday, Trump — furious about Beijing’s decision to hike tariffs on US goods — sounded the alarm to homegrown companies just before announcing a planned escalation in tariffs on Chinese imports.
“Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA,” he said on Twitter — sending Wall Street tumbling.
Jennifer Hillman, a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Law and a former general counsel in the office of the US Trade Representative, said on Twitter that she does not believe that Trump can invoke the IEEPA because he hasn’t met the “prerequisites.”
She also said there were no “retroactive controls” on foreign direct investment already made.
On Sunday, Kudlow emphasized: “There’s nothing right now in the cards.”
“Come back to the USA, where we have very low corporate tax rates and massive deregulation programs,” Kudlow said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Our economy is doing just fine right now, and so come home.”
Already, some companies, especially in the clothing and electronics sectors, have started making adjustments to their supply chains and researching production sites outside China, in other countries with low-cost labor.
But business leaders have cautioned that such changes take time.
The National Retail Federation, though critical of China’s trade practices, offered a furious reaction on Friday to the latest salvos from the Trump administration.
“It’s impossible for businesses to plan for the future in this type of environment,” said senior vice president of government relations David French.
“The administration’s approach clearly isn’t working, and the answer isn’t more taxes on American business and consumers. Where does this end?”
For Gerald Seib, the executive Washington editor of The Wall Street Journal, Trump’s “order” was a sign of frustration from a president who nevertheless cannot stop the power of capitalism.
“This is a capitalist system and whether presidents like it or not, companies make decisions on what they do and they don’t do, what they buy and what they sell and where they make goods based on what’s in their own best interests,” Seib wrote.
“He can’t simply make it happen by snapping his fingers.”
Despite the uptick in tensions, Kudlow insisted that US-China trade talks would go ahead next month in Washington.
Trump announces Rudy Giuliani ‘wants to go before Congress’ and testify about his Ukraine dealings
President Donald Trump on Saturday said that his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, wanted to testify before Congress.
Speaking to reporters as he departed for a Republican fundraiser in Florida, Trump praised the former New York City mayor.
"Rudy, as you know, has been one of the great crime fighters of the last 50 years," Trump said of his lawyer, who is reportedly under federal investigation for breaking the law.
"And, he did get back from Europe just recently and I know -- he has not told me what he found, but I think he wants to go before Congress and say, and also to the attorney general and the Department of Justice," Trump said.
GOP governors are refusing to do Trump’s bidding and ducking him on the campaign trail: report
On Saturday, Maggie Haberman of The New York Times profiled how President Donald Trump is having less luck whipping Republican governors into line than Republican senators, including governors who arguably owe their election to his support.
"In Florida, Mr. Trump’s aides helped save the flailing candidacy of Ron DeSantis in the 2018 Republican primary, and then the general election," wrote Haberman. "Also last year, in Georgia, Mr. Trump helped pull Brian Kemp over the finish line in both the primary and the general election. In both cases, Mr. Trump’s advisers implored him to stay out of the primaries, and he agreed to — only to surprise his aides by jumping in to support Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Kemp."
Courts have avoided refereeing between Congress and the president — Trump may change all that
President Donald Trump’s refusal to hand over records to Congress and allow executive branch employees to provide information and testimony to Congress during the impeachment battle is the strongest test yet of legal principles that over the past 200 years have not yet been fully defined by U.S. courts.
It’s not the first test: Struggles over power among the political branches predate our Constitution. The framers chose not to, and probably could not, fully resolve them.