But what next? It seems increasingly clear that Trump’s claim to be aiming for a tariff-free world, which was confected for him by supporters embarrassed to be associated with a protectionist, is bogus. Consider, first, the deal his team has just negotiated with Mexico (not all of which details are yet available). Trump got much of what he wanted: an increase in components of cars made in the United States (and by $16-per-hour workers) among his winnings. But he did not agree to roll back tariffs on steel and other imports from Mexico. They remain.
Or consider his reaction to the European Union’s surprise acceptance of his demand that all trade in autos be duty free—“Not good enough.” Perhaps Trump belatedly realizes that U.S. manufacturers of highly profitable pick-up trucks and vans would howl if the 25 percent tariff the U.S. levies on those imported vehicles were removed. Or that his desire to see more Chevy SUVs on the streets of Europe would require wider streets and far lower gasoline prices. In any event, Trump isn’t about to strike a free-trade deal with the European Union. The Brussels eurocrats are dragging out current negotiations on the pretext that they are required to check each detail of the negotiations with their 28 member-states for permission to proceed—a new-found respect for national sovereignty. Trump is not famous for his patience with protracted dithering, and E.U. delay is likely to trigger an explosion of new tariff threats.