Sunday, March 19, 2017

China Not Impressed

He has to be kidding.

Not Jacob Shapiro, director of analysis at Geopolitical Futures, who remarked on February 15 "there's enough inconsistencies in this report that it makes me raise an eyebrow."  During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged to get tough on mainland China by declaring it a currency manipulator and imposing a 40 per cent tariff on goods it exports to this country. Therefore, Shapiro was referring to a report in The Wall Street Journal that, according to CNBC

the White House is instead considering a proposal that would change what it means to be a currency manipulator. The new definition, as reported by the Journal, would make it possible for Trump to avoid singling out — and angering — a country whose economy is fundamentally intertwined with the United States.

"It shows that either Trump can't label China a currency manipulator, or doesn't want to," said Jacob Shapiro, director of analysis at Geopolitical Futures, an online publication that analyzes and forecasts the course of global events.

Shapiro's eyebrows are very perceptive. The failure of the President to take action against Big China, however, may not be hard to understand, for a few weeks later we read the President has been

granted preliminary approval for 38 new Trump trademarks, paving the way for Donald Trump and his family to potentially develop a host of branded businesses from hotels to insurance to bodyguard and escort services, public documents show. 

Trump’s lawyers in China applied for the marks in April 2016, as Trump railed against China at campaign rallies, accusing it of currency manipulation and stealing US jobs. Critics maintain that Trump’s swelling portfolio of China trademarks raises serious conflict of interest questions.

Like father, like son (in-law). New York Magazine reports

A Beijing-based investment firm with close ties to the Chinese government is giving a “sweetheart deal” to the real-estate company owned by Jared Kushner’s family for a stake in the firm’s flagship property at 666 Fifth Ave., Bloomberg reported Monday.

The $4 billion deal calls for Kushner Companies, where Trump’s son-in-law and adviser was CEO until January, to receive $400 million in cash and have its mortgage in the mixed-use building slashed by about 80 percent.

The transaction’s critics tell Bloomberg that the terms of the deal are “unusually favorable.” The concern, as explained by Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center, is that Anbang Insurance Group is trying to curry favor with Kushner and, by extension, President Trump.

A Kushner Companies spokesman told Bloomberg that there’s no worry over conflict of interest because Jared sold his ownership in 666 Fifth Ave. to family members. But as Noble, who calls this a “sweetheart deal,” told Bloomberg, “A classic way you influence people is by financially helping their family.”

Matthew Sanderson, a D.C. lawyer and Republican, told the Times earlier this year that there’s nothing legally improper about the deal but it has the “strong appearance that a foreign entity is using Mr. Kushner’s business to try to influence U.S. policy.”

Early on St. Patrick's Day, President Trump tweeted "North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been 'playing' the United States for years. China has done little to help."

It would be more understandable if he were joking, about China and about Pyongyang needing a time-out.  While claiming the USA has been played by North Korea, the President seems unaware that China, having bestowed its beneficence upon the Trump family, would hold the cards in whatever poker game it wants to play with the USA. Viewing his country as primarily an investment vehicle, Trump is having trouble adjusting to the idea that he's no longer an owner or corporate CEO.

Donald Trump is proceeding rationally to maximize his family's weath, even to the extent of indirectly dealing with a foreign intelligence group.  Given his interests, when at a press conference he declares "we're a very powerful company- country," his only mistake is in the correction.

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