President Donald Trump’s proud announcement of a supposed trade breakthrough with Mexico this week should make us all wonder: Is the Trump game working? He promises to put America first, he tries to bully foreign countries, but so far the results are — at best — mixed.
In a tour of the world’s top challenges, we can start by acknowledging that Trump always said he hated the North American Free Trade Agreement, and he did not mind being rude to Mexico and Canada to underscore his stand.
So far, the result appears to be an outline of a trade deal with Mexico, and we have to ask whether the outcome will be good for U.S. workers and consumers. Putting aside whether Canada can reach a deal with the United States by Trump’s Friday deadline, the proposed new terms include higher pay for autoworkers in Mexico, and almost certainly higher prices for some cars in America. Will we feel better about paying more?
The trade skirmish with China is also likely to raise prices on many goods made there. Trump has had Cabinet members argue that the conflict, waged by increasing tariffs, could hurt Americans, but that U.S. consumers should believe him that the outcome will be good.
In the Middle East, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner leads a team that recently postponed the unveiling of a peace plan for Israelis and Palestinians. Israel’s leaders, while grateful that Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, are nervous about his hints that they’ll be compelled to pay a price for that favor. Luckily for the Israelis, Palestinian leaders have refused to speak with the Trump administration since the embassy move in May.
Meantime, after many friendly signals, Trump has decided to bully Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Hoping to win the release of an American Protestant minister in Turkey, the United States increased tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum products. The unprecedented pressure on a NATO ally has not yielded results.
As for NATO, many of America’s 28 partner nations resent Trump’s squawking about their reluctance to spend more on defense. Yet most of them have increased their military budgets, and some confirm that it was because of his pressure. This week, French President Emmanuel Macron said Europe can no longer depend on the United States for security. This is good and bad. If NATO is weakened or rejects U.S. leadership, then Washington cannot depend on what has been almost automatic European support in major world crises, such as terrorism.
And on Russia, Trump has been so erratic that his behavior defies understanding. When pushed by Congress, the administration imposes sanctions on Russia. Trump, however, refuses to condemn Russian spies for meddling in the 2016 presidential election. When Vladimir Putin met with Trump in Helsinki last month, including two mysterious hours they spent in private, the Russian president was confident, while Trump seemed a bit befuddled during their news conference.
Trump flew to Singapore in June to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and Trump proudly says Kim released three U.S. prisoners and the remains of more than 50 American service members. But without progress toward denuclearization, the Trump-Kim meeting might have been a waste of time — a get-together that mainly bolstered the dictator’s prestige.
In Washington, foreign diplomats wonder about how long Trump can continue to defy the norms of international behavior without triggering a crisis. They wonder whether a big win for Democrats in November would change his behavior and lessen the sense that they could wake up every morning to an alarming tweet or policy. The world is getting used to Trump, but it rightly assumes that his pugilistic style will not be around forever.
Dan Raviv is senior Washington correspondent for i24News.