Trump Smart diplomacy: Japan steps up to help US farmers, Vietnam blocks China from flouting US trade quotas

2 min read

See also Thomas Lifson's "China blinks on trade, wants 'calm' talks."

Want to know what smart diplomacy looks like, courtesy of President Trump?

Take a look at how America's East Asian allies and partners are positively rallying to support President Trump in his bid to put some boundaries on China's trade practices.  Far from being a bull in a China shop, as his political opponents claim, Trump's managed to magnify U.S. pressure on the region's leading bully through the force-multiplier of alliances.  Here's what the Wall Street Journal reports:

BIARRITZ, France — President Trump said Sunday the U.S. and Japan had reached a trade deal "in principle" that would pave the way for more U.S. farm exports to Japan, while dropping the threat of increased U.S. tariffs on Japanese cars.

"We've been working on a deal with Japan for a long time," Mr. Trump said at an impromptu event at the Group of Seven world leaders summit, where he was joined for a second time that day by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He said as part of the deal, Japan had agreed to buy a significant portion of the U.S.'s corn surplus.

So Japan's going to buy U.S. corn that China has tried to make unbuyable through draconian retaliatory tariffs, in a bid to punish President Trump's political base in rural America?  Japan just squashed that.  Thanks, Japan.  China just lost a big one.

Here's another:

Hanoi has vowed to crack down on manufacturers illegally using "Made in Vietnam" labels on items destined for America to dodge punishing tariffs as the US-China trade spat drags on.

Exporters have started shifting production from China to Vietnam to avoid 25 percent levies imposed by US President Donald Trump on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

But Hanoi said some manufacturers are illegally claiming their goods — including textiles, seafood and agricultural products — are from Vietnam when in fact they originate in China.

There have been more recent stories on this I saw yesterday (can't find now), signaling that from Vietnam's side, it's game on.  Implication?  Vietnam has just closed a side-door escape route from tariffs for China.  Reputation of Vietnam-made goods, you see.  In reality, this is Vietnam stepping up to the plate, supporting President Trump in the bigger picture on China. 

For both countries, it makes perfect sense — China has been harassing both and they have benefited immensely from both U.S. trade and the peace of the U.S. naval presence keeping sea lanes open for trade.  China's done its worst to interfere with both fronts to their detriment.  President Trump's team has managed to harness these issues to the U.S. advantage, very much in a win-win sort of way, and they're supporting the U.S.

The deal-making has come in multiple layers in this majestic aligning of forces to concentrate pressure on China.

In Japan's case, much of the focus has been on the U.S.-Japan deal-making to avoid automobile tariffs, which is muscle from the U.S., all right, yet it also broadly supports this alignment against China.  In Vietnam's case, China tariffs has sent a gold rush of investors looking to diversify their Asian manufacturing bases, and, for that matter, move production to Mexico and the U.S. (more employed Mexicans = fewer illegal aliens) as the Journal reports.  A recent New York Times lede:

No country on earth has benefited from President Trump's trade fight with China more than Vietnam.

According to China Dialogue, Vietnam's trade is growing at its fastest rate in 11 years.  It makes perfect sense for them to support Trump in checking China in the trade war by shutting the door to its cheating on quotas.  Win-win.

Let's throw in one more powerful indicator of how Trump has magnified the importance of the U.S. to China:

Tiny Hong Kong, whose immense resistance against China's bullying oppression (rooted in its failure to respect yet another treaty, the one it signed onto with Britain for the 1997 handover), have captured the attention of the world.  What's Hong Kong doing that grabs more attention than anything?  Waving the American flag and singing the Star-Spangled Banner.  The Hongkongers, who are all alone out there, are engaged in a difficult psychological warfare campaign as David vs. Goliath in the tech age, which means they have an actual chance of winning.  They know that the American flag-waving has got to annoy the hell out of China because the world sees them as the good guy, and now the flag-waving makes America the good guy, too.  It's a heckuvan endorsement for President Trump in his bid to pressure China as well.  That's some clout for the U.S. in this information age battle.

As Trump confronts China from an extremely unpredictable trade war front, the allies are rallying to support the U.S.

Conclusion: Trump knows what he's doing on the diplomatic front, as the forces gather to put China is on its back foot. Winning.