Is China winning the trade war? From Sven Henrich at northmantrader.com:
Did the US just lose the trade war? It seems like a ludicrous question to ask at this time as the US just raised tariffs on China to increase pressure on the negotiation process. The accepted conventional wisdom is that the US has the stronger hand to play as China would suffer more from tariffs than the US. That sounds good on paper, but is that really true in a three dimensional world with moving parts and conflicting timelines?
In many a fight match up the audience can get a sense of shift in momentum during a fight and as this trade war just shifted gears I can’t help but wonder if the momentum has shifted in China’s favor.
Let’s start with the reason for the sudden tariffs. Those came about because the US side was surprised, surprised by China’s apparent withdrawal from previous commitments. At least that’s the public narrative that is spun. Unless you’re in the negotiation yourself it’s hard to know. Fact is Trump, Kudlow and team led the world believe that a trade deal was imminent. It wasn’t. This move to escalate was not planned, it happened because team Trump realized they couldn’t get the deal they wanted or expected.
Being surprised and being forced to be reactive to escalate does not indicate a position of strength, but rather a position of weakness. And by reacting with tariffs Team Trump may have actually weakened their own position. Why? Because of inflation, time, and pain.
Let’s start with inflation: Despite Donald Trump’s repeated claims that China will pay the tariffs it simply is not so. US businesses and consumers are paying for tariffs which causes consumer inflation on the one hand and margin compression on the other, and perhaps a mix of both depending on what can be passed on.
But conceptually it’s literally shooting yourself in the foot.