Trump teases 3:30 p.m. tariff announcement, hints that 'real friends' might catch a break

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Thursday March 08th, 2018

High stakes.

Here's a theory: What if all the bluster about tariffs was designed to get Mexico to agree to pay for the wall?

The problem with that is that the big steel companies are too invested in the whole idea now. If Trump is going to make a big announcement at 3:30 p.m. today with steel company executives in the room, it can't be to tell them, oh, hey, never mind, we're not doing the tariffs after all.

Can it?

Can it???

As aides race to complete the necessary paperwork, President Trump said he will meet with industry executives Thursday afternoon to discuss formally imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

"Looking forward to 3:30 P.M. meeting today at the White House," Trump tweeted in the morning. "We have to protect & build our Steel and Aluminum Industries while at the same time showing great flexibility and cooperation toward those that are real friends and treat us fairly on both trade and the military."

Trump did not say what he meant by "flexibility" with "real friends," but aides said the tariffs could well include exemptions for Canada and Mexico, pending the outcome of other trade negotiations.

Late Wednesday, two administration officials said the event would take place Thursday afternoon, but it was not put on the official White House schedule released Wednesday night. There has been no official announcement other than the president's tweet.

Despite rising opposition from global allies and some Republicans, aides said Trump plans to follow through on his pledge to impose the tariffs on certain steel and aluminum imports, though there is some question as to when they will become formalized.

Say this for Trump: He doesn't care about the chattering classes accusing him of "flip-flopping" because he announced a public position that was really just a negotiating position. He knows it's sometimes useful to scare the bejeezus out of people to get them to the table, and I think he actually sees it as a virtue that he's so often portrayed as irrational.

I don't want to negotiate with him, but I'm afraid he just might be crazy enough to do it!

Maybe there's a reason Trump is always upping the ante in the fight with CNN. The more they suggest that he's mentally unstable, the easier it is for him to make others nervous when he's really only bluffing.

But as we've said here before, you can't bluff effectively if people figure out you're never really willing to go through with it. Trump has long believed in protectionism because he wrongly sees trade as a zero-sum game rather than large volume of independent buy/sell transactions in which everyone gets what they want. There's nothing in Trump's history to suggest he agrees with people like me who are trying to tell him it would be a disaster to actually impose these tariffs.

So it may very well be that it's a negotiating stance and that his preference would be to get a free-trade deal he likes. But there's no doubt in my mind he'll go through with this if he doesn't think he's got that deal.

And who are these "real friends," anyway? Canada and Mexico? Since when is Trump in love with Mexico. Trump's been talking to Benjamin Netanyahu a lot. Does "no exceptions" apply to the Israelis too?

Does he really need to pick a fight with Theresa May considering the pressure she's already under to make Brexit work?

I don't think most people understand how much trade policy affects a nation's economic well-being, but the announcement coming today at 3:30 is more important that the public probably thinks it is. The media will only be interested in the politics of it, of course, but a lot of people's real lives will be affected by what's decided.

Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!

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