Good progress. Make the agreement a success. And, a favorite of diplomats, favorable atmosphere.
The usual phrases in government announcements, but these involve trade talks with China, and everybody with an interest in the stock markets wants the right words to be said.
The otherwise bland announcement was that high-level talks had been held on trade issues, and it appeared to reaffirm that the trade agreement reached in January would be holding on.
That latter phrase is important, given the dramatic fluctuations in the markets and the enormous economic impact of coronavirus restrictions across the world.
Here in Louisiana, it is not just the economic loss to our neighbors and isolating at home, but the consequence of slowing business activity around the world. That has meant fewer purchases of our oil and gas — the benchmark U.S. crude plummeted to unheard-of depths — but also our export industries.
From farm and ranch products to petrochemicals, Louisiana has a profound and continuing interest in seeing our ports and railways busy, shipping to the world but also importing products we use every day.
Good progress and all that had a bit of a hiccup when President Donald Trump — who started a trade war with China more than two years ago — said he would be assessing this week whether China was following up on the Phase 1 talks from January.
Markets did not like that uncertainty, and with good reason. Wall Street and the world economy has all the uncertainty on its plate that they can handle right now.
That goes for China, too. Spending in that giant economy, although far poorer than that of American capitalism, is also hurt in the era of coronavirus. A trade war should not be about blame for the coronavirus outbreak.
While the phrases of trade diplomacy are polite, the realities are that trade policy is a tough-minded battle of interests. No one wants to be a patsy. We agree that diligence is necessary.
But what has been too often lost on the Trump administration is that keeping trade flowing is not automatic. It depends on both sides believing in the value of trade and avoiding tariffs and other devices to gain advantage, that is all too often temporary and illusory.
Wrestling one another to the ground in a trade war is a loss for both sides. Tariffs kicked off by the president’s trade war hurt Louisiana and the nation even before the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.
Now is not the time for rhetoric, nor for sudden destabilizing tweets out of the White House. The so-called Phase 1 agreement from January needs to be affirmed, by both sides, as we work on the larger economic and social turmoil of coronavirus.