Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Trade diplomacy as schoolyard bullying

More and more, high-level international trade diplomacy is starting to look suspiciously (and dispiritingly) similar to playground antics: a lot of shouting and bluster, the occasional underhand trick, and the even more occasional violent action. Like playground antics, it's discouraging and depressing.
As the USA and China face off like two schoolyard bullies unwilling to yield, and play around with hundreds of billions of dollars like they were Monopoly money, the playground parallels are hard to igore. "I'm going to slap tariffs on you!" Whack! "Tariffs right back at you!" Whack! "You're manipulating your currency - I'm telling teacher!" "Not so! I'm not buying any of your agricultural products unless you say sorry!" Whack! Whack! "So, meh!" In the meantime, bruises and wounds accumulate, and innocent bystanders are getting caught up in the fracas. It's not an edifying sight.
Unfortunately, there are no strong teachers patrolling the playground who can knock some sense into either of them. And neither of them is willing to compromise, let alone give in, even as their economies, and the world as a whole, pays the price. Come on guys! Grow up a bit!

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