After his Argentine steak dinner last weekend with Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Trump announced that they had reached an “incredible deal” to temporarily suspend his trade war. But days later, Trump declared, “I am a Tariff man.”
Trump last week proposed stripping away electric-car subsidies from General Motors as punishment for the automotive giant moving to cease production at plants in the United States and Canada. But then his chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said the White House would do no such thing. Targeting a single company, he explained, would be illegal.
Then there is the way Trump talks about how the economy works — imprecise at best, ignorant at worst. For instance, the president routinely says that China and other countries are paying billions of dollars to the United States because of his tariffs. But that is false. Tariffs are paid by companies, often U.S. firms, that import foreign-made products.
Once again this week, world leaders, U.S. lawmakers and jittery investors have been reminded that Trump’s words cannot always be trusted.
The whiplash nature of Trump’s economic policies and pronouncements bore tangible consequences on Tuesday, when U.S. stock markets cratered amid investor skepticism of Trump’s China talks. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 799 points, or 3.1 percent, while the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index fell 3.2 percent and the Nasdaq dropped 3.8 percent.