NYT's Tom Friedman: Trump Is Right About Trade Relationship with China

May 23rd, 2019 9:54 PM

There must be a rip in the fabric of the universe.

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman who at least until very recently suffered from extreme Trump Derangement Syndrome wrote on on May 21 that Trump is correct in attempting to reset our trade relationship with China. In case you thought this was a brief moment of mental clarity, he also appeared with Steve Bannon on CNBC and mostly agreed with him about the need to push China into a new trade agreement.

Trump’s instinct that America needs to rebalance its trade relationship with Beijing — before China gets too big to compromise — is correct. And it took a human wrecking ball like Trump to get China’s attention. But now that we have it, both countries need to recognize just how pivotal this moment is.

Of course, Friedman just couldn't resist a few relatively minor slams against Trump which at least he balanced with criticism of Chinese President Xi Jinping afterwards:

For it to end well, Trump will have to stop with his juvenile taunting of China on Twitter (and talking about how trade wars are “easy” to win) and quietly forge the best rebalancing deal we can get — we probably can’t fix everything at once — and move on, without stumbling unthinkingly into a forever tariff war.

...As a result, all China’s subsidies, protectionism, cheating on trade rules, forced technology transfers and stealing of intellectual property since the 1970s became a much greater threat. If the U.S. and Europe allowed China to continue operating by the same formula that it had used to grow from poverty to compete for all the industries of the future, we’d be crazy. Trump is right about that.

Where he is wrong is that trade is not like war. Unlike war, it can be a win-win proposition. Alibaba, UnionPay, Baidu and Tencent and Google, Amazon, Facebook and Visa can all win at the same time — and they have been. I’m not sure Trump understands that.

But I’m not sure Xi does, either. We have to let China win fair and square where its companies are better, but it has to be ready to lose fair and square, too. Who can say how much more prosperous Google and Amazon would be today if they had been able to operate as freely in China as Alibaba and Tencent can operate in America? 

Perhaps even more surprising are the comments by Friedman on May 15 when he appeared on CNBC's Squawk Box for a very very civil discussion on Trump and China trade with Steve Bannon.

Exit question: How long before the left attacks Friedman for daring to recede a bit from his constant attacks upon Trump and for not rabidly snarling in the presence of Steve Bannon?