Trump’s Next Trade Targets

The US and China may be on the verge of resolving – or at least cooling – a heavyweight trade fight that's already seen them slap tariffs on $360 billion worth of each other's goods. If all goes according to plan, a deal will be in place ahead of a summit later this month between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

But that won't spell the end of the Trump administration's aggressive bid to remake the global trading order. Emboldened by their apparent successes in renegotiating NAFTA as well as the China trade relationship, Mr. Trump and his hardline trade czar Robert Lighthizer are now going to train their sights on a whole slew of other countries where they think they can win terms more favorable to US industry:


Japan: The US announced this week an investigation into Japanese titanium exports on national security grounds. The Trump administration wants to cajole Japan into accepting quotas on its auto exports and lowering its import tariffs on US beef and agricultural goods. But with upcoming local and parliamentary elections, the Japanese government will be reluctant to offer quick concessions. That means the US could be heading for long and acrimonious negotiations with its closest Asian ally.

European Union: President Trump wants the EU to remove its massive industrial and agricultural subsidies, and has threatened import tariffs on EU cars if he doesn't get his way. European politicians are loathe to scrap support to hugely influential voting blocs, but Mr. Trump can inflict real pain on EU automakers, who are the largest exporters of vehicles to the US. In July of last year, the US and EU agreed to a temporary trade truce while Trump focused on China, but with a Beijing deal in the bag, the US president will be spoiling for a fresh fight. Trump must make a final decision on auto tariffs before May 17.

Emerging economies: The US isn't just taking aim at rich countries. This week the White House announced it would end preferential treatment for India and Turkey under a decades-old trade regime intended to promote growth and prosperity in poorer economies.

The Trump administration's beef is that India hasn't opened up its industries to US firms and that Turkey is wealthy enough to no longer be coddled with special treatment. Note that India and Turkey are just two of 121 countries currently given such benefits, so Trump and Lighthizer may soon go after other targets.

The bottom line: As the dust begins to settle between the US and China, the Trump administration's appetite for trade fights is as strong as ever.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will arrive in Rome tomorrow ready to plant a flag in the heart of Europe. Italy is expected to break with most other advanced economies by formally signing onto Beijing's $1.3 trillion global Belt and Road (BRI) infrastructure initiative.

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China's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative is one of the most ambitious geopolitical projects ever. By 2027, it aims to dish out an estimated $1.3 trillion in loans, around ten times what the US spent on the Marshall Plan in the aftermath of World War II. As China increases its investment in the West, will countries' loyalty shift toward Beijing? Here's a look at the already staggering scope of Beijing's agenda.

As you read this, US-backed Syrian and Kurdish forces are killing or capturing the last few Islamic State militants holding out in a fingernail-shaped sliver of riverbank in eastern Syria. It's all that remains of the caliphate declared by the Islamist extremist group across a swath of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014.

Despite being on the back foot territorially, here are three ways that ISIS will continue to rile global politics:

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What we are watching

A retiring strongman in Kazakhstan – Since 1989, one man has ruled the massive, oil-rich Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan. That is, until yesterday, when Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned as president and put a close ally in charge until new elections are called. The 78-year old Kazakh leader was rumored to have been planning a transition for more than two years, putting allies in key posts, weakening the power of the presidency, and bolstering the clout of the country's Security Council, which he will still head. But the exact timing came as a surprise. We're watching this story – not just because it's a rare example of a strongman leaving power of his own will, but because we suspect Vladimir Putin is watching, too. The hardy 66-year-old Russian leader needs to figure out what he'll do when his current term expires in 2024. The constitution says Putin can't run again. Is Nazarbayev charting a path that Putin can follow?

A suspicious death in Italy – Italian authorities are investigating the suspicious demise of Imane Fadil, a 34-year-old Moroccan model who died in Milan earlier this month – apparently with high levels of toxic metals in her blood that could indicate poisoning. Fadil was a frequent guest at ex-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's infamous bunga-bunga sex parties, and was a key witness in his 2013 trial on underage sex allegations. Adding to the intrigue, Fadil was due to testify at another upcoming court case. Apart from all of this, her death could have an immediate impact on Italian politics: Italy's right-wing Lega party is now less likely to call a snap election this summer, because the Fadil case taints Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, the group that Lega would ideally like to team up with in order to gain a majority in parliament.

What we are ignoring

The Scent of Fascism – In a new commercial out of Israel, a beautiful woman glides through arty black and white scenes like a model, purring about putting new limits on the judiciary, and spritzing herself with a perfume called "fascism." Hot stuff, right? But this isn't just a sultry model hawking a designer fragrance – it's the country's right-wing Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who has incensed the left with her bid to curtail the power of courts, which she says are too liberal. At the end of the spoof ad, which is meant to promote her New Right party ahead of upcoming elections, Skaked takes whiff of the perfume and tells viewers: "Smells like democracy to me." We are ignoring this bid to put her party's name back in the headlines because the fascism joke just isn't funny.

Devin Nunes' Mom – Devin Nunes, a Republican Congressman from California, has filed a lawsuit seeking $250 million in damages against a Twitter personality who goes by the handle @DevinNunesMom, other users of the popular messaging platform, and Twitter itself. According to a copy of the complaint uploaded by Fox News, Nunes, the ardent Trump supporter who used to chair the House Intelligence Committee, says @DevinNunesMom engaged in slander by calling him "presidential fluffer and swamp rat," and claiming he was "voted Most Likely To Commit Treason in high school," among other digital insults. The suit also accused Twitter of suppressing conservative viewpoints – an argument that other Republicans have used to put political pressure on the company. We'll be watching how that argument plays out, but we are ignoring @DevinNunesMom. Judging by the massive jump in followers that @DevinNunesMom has received since the case was filed, by the time this is all over, we're pretty sure Congressman Nunes will wish he had done so, too.