President Trump is taking a gamble this week on trade. He is threatening to impose massive tariffs against Chinese goods, which would be bad for American consumers but perhaps much worse for an increasingly wobbly Chinese economy.
As bad as that all sounds in principle, this is a calculated risk that Trump is taking with a worthy goal in mind. He wants to force China’s regime back to the negotiating table, to hash out a trade deal that will end, among other things, China’s policy of expanding its economy using the stolen intellectual property of companies that do business there.
This is a judgment call that Trump is better positioned to make than we are. Moreover, in the long run, everyone will benefit from a favorable trade agreement that binds China’s regime to the basic norms of ethics and fair play that Westerners take for granted.
But even if Trump is right in this, we must object to the misleading message that Trump is sending the nation right now on the issue of trade policy and how it works. On Twitter this week, Trump has been once again talking up the virtues of tariffs and discussing the trade deficit in a highly misleading manner. He is miseducating the public, especially his supporters.