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 fears his base will turn on him if he flips and calls for nationwide mask guidelines: CNN
On CNN Saturday, analyst Ron Brownstein outlined the key reason President Donald Trump is struggling to adapt his message to proper public health guidance on the coronavirus pandemic.
"Ron, there is a retail trade group that has asked President Trump to institute federal, nationwide mask guidelines at stores across the country as the country continues to re-open," said anchor Alex Marquardt. "Experts are saying that masks could save thousands of lives in the coming months. Do you see a scenario in which — any chance in which he would issue that?"
"I think the short answer is no, and for a revealing reason," said Brownstein. "He is in a trap of his own construction. On coronavirus, we talk all the time about how President Trump's base is bonded to him, immovably. He's also bonded to the base in the other direction, that he is very reluctant to get out crosswise with a base that includes the kind of people that showed up at the Michigan capital to protest lockdown without wearing masks and waving Confederate flags and carrying automatic weapons."
Trump and the GOP have become the party of the dead
There are few morbid topics subject to greater speculation than the religious loyalty of President Donald Trump's "base." Why an alarmingly large amount of Americans refuse even to entertain any criticism of Trump deserves scrutiny from political scientists, psychologists and perhaps horror novelists working in the school of Edgar Allan Poe.
This article first appeared in Salon.
What is abundantly clear is that no matter who votes for Trump, he and the Republican Party on the national level have no interest in governing on the behalf of living human beings — with the exception of ensuring that a tiny minority of billionaires and multimillionaires enlarge their investment portfolios. Trump evinces no concern for Americans dying of the coronavirus, racist violence or any other malady or injustice. He demonstrates no regard for health care professionals courageously trying to save their patients from dying, and appears cruelly indifferent to the struggles of millions of workers whose livelihoods have been destroyed by COVID-19. Needless to say, Trump also shows contempt for Black Lives Matter, immigrants and anyone who opposes his re-election, which at this moment (and throughout his presidency) is more than half of the American public.
As coronavirus seizes the state, Florida hospitals are in panic mode
This article first appeared in Salon.
There are 47,663 hospital beds in the state right now with 11,782 available (meaning a remaining capacity of 19.82 percent) and a total staffed bed capacity of 59,445, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration's Hospital Bed Capacity Dashboard. The state Department of Health also reported on Friday that, out of 95,300 individuals who received coronavirus test results over the course of the previous day, 11,433 tested positive for COVID-19 (all but 90 of whom were Florida residents), meaning that more than 12 percent of the new cases had positive test results. The state also reported 93 new deaths due to COVID-19. (Salon reached out to the Florida Department of Health for comment on this story.)