The homebody president: Trump keeps it quick on trips abroad
By CATHERINE LUCEY and ZEKE MILLER
Thursday, November 29
WASHINGTON (AP) — Marathon days. Red-eye flights. Jam-packed agendas. When President Donald Trump travels abroad, he’s increasingly keeping it quick lately.
Trump departs Thursday for the Group of 20 summit in Argentina, where the homebody commander in chief will spend just 48 hours on the ground yet pack in eight high-level meetings with foreign leaders.
International summits are taxing events for any leader, but Trump has made his visit even more so by design, as the travel-averse president looks to minimize his time abroad.
The schedule this week is so tight that a scheduled one-on-one meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will morph into a “trilateral” when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi joins them midway.
Known for relishing routine and preferring his own bed, Trump has largely eschewed marathon trips during the second year of his presidency. That’s after some more ambitious world tours during his first year. The shift reveals not just a personal preference for where he rests his head, but also underscores the increasing isolation of the U.S. under Trump’s “America First” leadership.
Trump earlier this month canceled a planned stop in Colombia, citing unspecified scheduling concerns, but his public schedule does not reveal any significant conflicts.
It was hardly the first time Trump has sought to minimize his travels. Earlier this year, Trump scrapped a South American trip altogether, citing his need to focus on the crisis in Syria. In June, he left Singapore earlier than expected after a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. A recent trip to Paris lasted just a weekend.
For a man who’s owned a private jet for decades, Trump has always shown a reluctance to sleep in unfamiliar places. He has stayed overnight at properties he does not own only a handful of times since taking office, and he has on at least one occasion laced into staff over his accommodations.
Three current and former White House officials said Trump has at times expressed frustration about travel overseas, and they have curtailed trips to his liking. The White House did not respond to a request for comment. All spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.
White House aides said Trump prefers to play the role of host rather than guest on the international stage, both out of personal preference and for the symbolism. Trump relishes showing foreign leaders around the White House, delivering tours of the West Wing and Executive Mansion, and holding forth on the history of the place.
He also just enjoys the optics of having global leaders visit his home office — that oval one.
Since taking office, Trump has made eight foreign trips, four in his first year and four so far this year, not including Argentina.
His travels in his first year were more extensive and included two marathon tours — one that took him through the Middle East and Europe and one through much of Asia. He visited 13 countries and the West Bank during his first year, compared with seven countries in his second.
Trump’s travel does not match the early efforts of President Barack Obama, who made 10 trips in his first year. Obama, too, scaled back his foreign travel in his second year, with six trips.
Trump’s backers stress that even with less travel this year, he took on a major diplomatic challenge with his visit to Singapore to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
In 2018, Trump has turned considerable attention inward, embarking on an ambitious midterm campaign tour in an effort to protect Republican seats in Congress.
Taking office on an “America First” platform, Trump has always had an uneasy relationship with the world stage. While his supporters say Trump campaigned on shaking up the world order, he also has faced criticism that he is abandoning the U.S. role as a global leader.
There’s been no shortage of drama on Trump’s foreign trips.
In Paris recently for a weekend commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, Trump stood apart from allies. He began his visit with a tweet slamming the French president’s call for a European defense force, arrived at events alone and spent much of his trip out of sight in the American ambassador’s residence in central Paris.
Earlier this year, Trump jolted a meeting of the Group of Seven nations in Canada by agreeing to a group statement on trade, then abruptly withdrawing from it while flying to Asia. He complained that he had been blindsided by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s criticism of his tariff threats at a summit-ending news conference. In tweets, Trump insulted Trudeau as “dishonest” and “weak.”
While Trump has had harsh words for allies during his travels, he has often treated adversaries far more warmly, offering kind words to Kim, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the Saudi crown prince. At a recent campaign rally, Trump said of Kim: “He wrote me beautiful letters and they’re great letters. We fell in love.”
Lucey reported from Buenos Aires.
For AP’s complete coverage of the Group of 20 summit in Argentina: https://apnews.com/G-20Summit
Trump was dealt a winning hand on trade – his hardball negotiating tactics are squandering it
November 29, 2018
Associate Professor of Economics, Southern Methodist University
James Lake does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
As President Donald Trump prepares to meet with his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of the G-20 summit on Nov. 30, the stakes could hardly be higher.
The two countries are in the middle of a trade war Trump launched earlier this year, one of the hardball negotiating strategies he believes can extract more benefits from trading partners. Such “economic bullying” was blamed for creating a first-ever deadlock at a recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting.
So far, China shows few signs of budging in the face of mounting tariffs. Could Trump’s tough talk work? Or will it backfire on him and the Americans he represents?
Threats and humiliation
Exhibit A for those who believe such tactics are effective is the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, negotiated to replace NAFTA. Trump used threats, humiliation and punishing tariffs to get Canada and Mexico to agree to the new deal.
Supporters argue this shows his brand of bluster works. And that this strategy will help the U.S. win its trade war with China and get the better of the EU.
But even without the taunting tweets, Trump already has enormous leverage going into any trade negotiation, whether with Canada and Mexico, China or the EU. That’s because, as my own research has shown, boasting the world’s largest and strongest economy puts the U.S. in a unique position to extract concessions from its partners.
Yet, despite this advantage and the blustery rhetoric, Trump hasn’t actually achieved all that much. And in negotiations with China, he may have already squandered some of his biggest chips.
The US always has a strong hand
Forgetting Trump’s negotiating tactics for a moment, the U.S. went to the bargaining table with Canada and Mexico with an inherently strong hand. And, the same will be true when arriving at the bargaining table with China and the EU.
Research by economist John McLaren shows how small countries become more dependent on big ones when they integrate with each other. Indeed, recent research of my own, together with economists Tibor Besedes and Tristan Kohl, says Canada and Mexico did become more dependent on the U.S. because of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
And empirical work by economists Rod Ludema and Anna Maria Mayda shows countries like the U.S. with greater exporting power tend to get more market access during bilateral negotiations.
Threats and tariffs
But, rather than focusing on playing the strong hand he was dealt, the president threatened to burn the house down.
For example, he’s been threatening to withdraw from NAFTA since the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and repeatedly tried to use his apparent eagerness to rip it up as a way to force Canada and Mexico to the negotiating table.
He also imposed steep tariffs on steel and aluminum – new levies that adversely affect Canada and Mexico much more than China. They’ve also hurt American carmakers, playing a part in General Motor’s plan to close up to five plants in North America and lay off more than 14,000 workers.
Yet Trump used these steel and aluminum tariffs – as well as the specter of new and severe auto tariffs – to back Canada and Mexico into a corner, even though both are key allies.
Furthermore, after reaching a separate deal with Mexico in August, Trump used it to put even more pressure on Canada by threatening to exclude America’s northern neighbor if it didn’t agree to their terms.
Tough talk and modest gains
And after all this, did he get “the most important trade deal we’ve ever made, by far,” as he claimed? Not quite.
In fact, U.S. gains in the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement are modest at best, even in the three areas most touted as wins.
While it’s true that U.S. dairy producers now have better access to the Canadian market, the Federal Reserve Banks of Minneapolis and Chicago predict little benefit. The increased market access is small. And U.S. dairy farmers are still facing tariffs from Mexico and Canada as retaliation for Trump’s metal tariffs.
Mexico’s promise of passing laws strengthening labor unions and worker rights also has little value for the U.S. Although these laws should reduce the extent to which Mexican workers are low-wage substitutes for U.S. workers, the new deal doesn’t spell out enforcement. So, like the old NAFTA, these are unenforceable promises by Mexico.
Finally, the U.S. did manage to get its way on a rule requiring a zero-tariff car coming from Mexico to have at least 30 percent of the work done by employees earning at least US$16 an hour – three times the typical Mexican autoworker wage. Some argue this will create more high-wage auto jobs in the U.S.
Good news for American autoworkers right? Wrong. The penalty tariff for missing this mark is just 2.5 percent. Rather than shifting lots of labor back to the U.S., car companies will simply pay the tariff.
Squandering a good hand
Now we turn to China, a trade relationship that’s far more complex.
Interestingly, the U.S. has even more leverage with China because most of its allies, such as the EU, agree with its concerns over intellectual property theft and a lack of market access. They would have joined a coordinated effort to push China to change its ways.
But once again, rather than playing this already strong hand, Trump doubled down on go-it-alone confrontation by piling on the tariffs, which now cover more than half of U.S. imports from China.
And he’s repeatedly threatened to go for broke and slap tariffs on all imports from China.
What has this achieved? A tit for tat, full-blown trade war, in which each Trump salvo is greeted by retaliation. This retaliation has pummeled U.S. farmers: Over 90 percent of U.S. agricultural exports to China are now subject to tariffs. Although the Trump administration has promised billions in tariff relief to farmers, many say it won’t be enough to offset the losses.
Putting aside China’s slapping of the U.S. with retaliation, possible concessions outlined by China don’t amount to much. They include offers of helping reduce the bilateral trade deficit – even though economists say they don’t matter – and other modest changes.
Moreover, Trump already gave up the ace in the hole that could have helped achieve so many of his goals: the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Because the TPP would have been the largest trade deal ever and included so many of its Pacific neighbors, China would most likely have eventually joined. That would have resulted in more market access for American companies in China and forced China to abide by rules essentially written by the U.S., the dominant economic superpower in the deal.
Alas, one of Trump’s first official acts as president was to withdraw from the TPP.
How to play a winning hand
Holding aces doesn’t ensure a win, of course. It’s more about making the right moves.
Trump’s best move now on China is to focus on cooperating with the EU and Japan. Uniting as a massive trading bloc is the best way to extract concessions from China.
And while early rumors of a possible truce in the trade war are encouraging, the EU and Japan will only take part if they believe Trump is serious about cooperating with them and negotiating with China. That belief has surely been dented by Trump’s negotiating tactics.
The U.S. doesn’t have to keep threatening to burn down the house to get a good deal. The U.S. only has to play the cards it’s been dealt, which is typically a winning hand.
Neil S. Grigg, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado State University
Thanks for the interesting and informative analysis. Trump’s bluster on trade is upsetting because it generates resentment against the U.S. and his moves seem to generate as many losers as winners. Having said that, it’s evident to me that the whole business is so complex that I can’t assess the winners and losers, but must follow the op-eds and headlines to see what happens. It makes me wonder if some kind of econometric game couldn’t be developed, including with an agent-based feature, to predict the pluses and minuses of trade policy moves.
Pelosi’s path back to speaker’s gavel is firmly in sight
By LISA MASCARO
AP Congressional Correspondent
Thursday, November 29
WASHINGTON (AP) — Nancy Pelosi isn’t speaker of the House just yet, but her path back to the gavel is now firmly in sight.
Pelosi was overwhelmingly nominated to become House speaker in an internal Democratic caucus vote Wednesday. The final tally, 203-32, puts her within range of the 218 threshold needed in January to be elected speaker when the new Congress convenes.
She’s not quite there. Her actual support is at 200, adjusting for delegates who can’t vote in the full House and one supporter who missed the caucus session.
But without a challenger and with several weeks to dole out — or withhold — favors, Pelosi is not too far from returning to the speaker’s office.
“Are there dissenters? Yes,” the California Democrat told reporters as the ballots were being counted. “But I expect to have a powerful vote going forward.”
Pelosi entered the caucus election in an unusual position — running unopposed for the nomination despite the clamor by some Democrats for new leadership. They worry about their re-elections when Pelosi appears as a punchline at President Donald Trump’s rallies and in countless Republican-fueled TV ads against them.
But Pelosi has been deftly picking off opponents — including nine who announced their support Wednesday as voting was underway — a trend she’ll need to accelerate in the weeks ahead.
A deal was reached with the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group whose nine Democratic members were withholding their support as they pushed for rules changes to allow a more open legislative process.
Another group, led by Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio and Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York, left the leader’s office empty-handed. They asked Pelosi to publicly release her plans to transition out of leadership before the end of the next term in 2020. She declined, they said.
“There has to be some succession plan,” Rice said.
As House Democrats met in private in the Capitol, they faced a simple “yes” or “no” choice on Pelosi for speaker.
Those trying to oust Pelosi say they always knew the internal caucus election would fall in her favor. She only needed a simple majority of Democrats, who have a 233-seat majority with several races still undecided, to win the nomination.
But in January she’ll need closer to 218 votes, half the full 435-seat House, if all Republicans vote against her, as is likely — though she could win with fewer votes if some lawmakers are absent or vote present.
Opponents insist there will be more than enough votes to stop Pelosi at that time. Organizers say only with a floor fight in view will new leaders emerge. They say plenty of Democrats could step up to the job.
“The battle is the floor,” said Rep. Linda Sanchez of California, among those who signed a letter calling for new leadership.
But the strength of Pelosi’s candidacy was shown in the long line of those nominating her, starting with Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, and no fewer than eight colleagues seconding the choice, including Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the civil rights leader, and three newly elected lawmakers.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who is set to chair the Intelligence Committee when Democrats take control next year, choked up with emotion, according an aide in the room granted anonymity to discuss the private meeting.
“I ask you to support her for this,” Schiff told his colleagues. “Everything we care about is now at risk. Families desperate to obtain health care for their families. Children desperate to be reunited with their families, auto workers being laid off. The gap between rich and poor exploding. The press characterized as the enemy of the people. The independence of our justice system being undermined.”
Pelosi’s ability to stand unopposed Wednesday showed the staying power of her brand of machine politics. She was the first female speaker, from 2007 to 2011, until Republicans took control, and hopes to return to a role few men have reclaimed — most recently, legendary Speaker Sam Rayburn a half-century ago.
She lost fewer votes than she did during a leadership challenge two years ago, and fewer than retiring Republican Speaker Paul Ryan faced in his internal caucus election for the job.
“The reality is there is no alternative,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., who had signed on opposing her but reversed course.
In fact, Democrats voted to return their entire top leadership team, including Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland in the No. 2 spot as majority leader and Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina in the No. 3 spot as whip. They were running unopposed.
Down-ballot was where the House Democrats pushed a new generation of leader to the forefront. They elected Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York as caucus chairman, elevating the charismatic 48-year-old from the Congressional Black Caucus. The No. 4 slot as assistant leader went to Ben Ray Lujan, 46, who helped lead Democrats back to the majority as campaign chairman.
Between now and January, those who oppose Pelosi will face internal pressure to reconsider their options. Colleagues will be asking if they really want a stalemate on the House floor as the first act of the new Democratic majority. And Pelosi will work the levers of power by doling out the many committee seat assignments, subcommittee chairmanships and other perks as incentives.
“She’s making a lot of headway,” said Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio, an ally. “Has she negotiated and given them some of the things that they want? Yes. But she’s only giving things to people who can deliver.”
Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Padmananda Rama, Luis Alonso Lugo, Kevin Freking and Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.
Follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lisamascaro and https://twitter.com/AP_Politics
AP Exclusive: Mormons support GOP, but Trump approval lags
By HANNAH FINGERHUT and BRADY McCOMBS
Thursday, November 29
WASHINGTON (AP) — About two-thirds of Mormon voters nationwide favored Republicans in the midterm elections, but President Donald Trump’s approval rating among members of the faith lagged behind, according to a nationwide survey of midterm voters.
And as Republican Sen. Mitt Romney prepares to join the new Congress in January, most voters in the predominantly Mormon state of Utah — 64 percent — would like to see the senator confront the president, AP VoteCast found. About half of Romney’s supporters — including his Mormon supporters — said they would like to see the former Massachusetts governor stand up to Trump, while about as many indicated the senator should support Trump if elected.
The new data reaffirms Trump’s struggle to gain widespread acceptance among Mormons despite the faith’s deep-rooted conservative leanings.
Voters of other religious faiths such as evangelical Christians and Catholics are more consistent in their ratings of the president and vote choice. Across most other religious affiliations, about the same share voted for Republican candidates as said they approve of the president.
That’s not the case with Mormons: 67 percent voted for Republicans, but 56 percent said they approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president. That’s according to an analysis of 1,528 Mormon voters based on data from VoteCast, a survey of more than 115,000 voters nationwide conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago. The data offers an unusual level of detail about the voting decisions of a sometimes misunderstood religion.
Among Mormon voters in Utah, 76 percent preferred Republican congressional candidates, but only 56 percent said they approved of Trump.
By comparison, 8 in 10 white evangelical Christians nationwide voted for Republican candidates, and nearly as many (79 percent) said they approve of Trump. Among Catholics, nearly half voted for Republican candidates and said they approve of Trump (49 percent each).
Nationally, 45 percent of voters said they approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, while 55 percent disapprove.
Among Republican voters nationwide, 85 percent said they approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president.
Trump has struggled since he was a presidential candidate to gain acceptance among Mormons and in Utah, where the mostly Mormon electorate has long been uncomfortable with his brash style and his comments about women and immigrants. He won the deep-red state in the 2016 election, but many conservative voters cast ballots instead for third-party candidate Evan McMullin as Trump earned the lowest percentage of the vote among GOP presidential candidates since 1992.
Members of the religion, which forbids its members from using alcohol or tobacco and teaches that gay marriage and homosexual relationships are a sin, place a high value on manners, amiability and public diplomacy. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Utah-based faith that counts 6.6 million members in the United States.
According to VoteCast, a majority of Mormons said Trump does not have the right temperament to serve effectively as president (58 percent), while just about 4 in 10 (42 percent) said he does. Forty-six percent of Mormons said the president is honest and trustworthy.
Support for Trump among Mormons nationally was slightly lower among more educated members of the faith. College-educated Mormons were far more likely to vote for Republican candidates than to express approval of the president (73 percent versus 51 percent), while there is no significant gap among Mormons without a college degree (63 percent voted for Republicans, and 60 percent approve of Trump).
By contrast, Romney is widely revered in Utah and by Mormons for being a high-profile member of the Mormon faith in America and for his work in turning around Salt Lake City’s 2002 Winter Olympics after a bribery scandal.
Romney captured 63 percent of the vote to win the U.S. Senate seat vacated by retiring Republican Orrin Hatch, also a Mormon. VoteCast showed about 8 in 10 Mormon voters in Utah backed Romney (83 percent).
Romney called Trump a “phony” and “con man” during the 2016 presidential race, but their relationship has since thawed. Trump backed Romney for the Senate seat, and Romney has avoided attacking Trump, instead vowing to work with the president on issues they agree on and voice his disagreements when they don’t. Just last week, Romney pushed back against Trump’s comments on Saudi Arabia, saying they are “inconsistent” with U.S. foreign policy.
Nearly two-thirds of Utah voters said they would like to see Romney continue to stand up to Trump (64 percent), compared with fewer who would like to see him support Trump (36 percent). Romney voters were divided: Half said they would want him to stand up to Trump, and half preferred he support Trump. Romney’s Mormon supporters, in particular, were also equally divided on whether he should stand up to Trump or support him.
While the state’s two U.S. senators and three of four of its U.S House members are Republican, Democrat Ben McAdams did unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Mia Love to flip the seat and become the first Democrat among Utah’s congressional delegation since 2014.
McAdams pitches himself to voters as a moderate, and not a typical Democrat, in a district that includes many Salt Lake City suburbs. He was among 16 Democrats who signed a letter vowing not to vote for Nancy Pelosi for House speaker.
VoteCast also illustrated Mormons’ preference for a mix of compassion and toughness on immigration.
Just about half of Mormon voters said they approve of the president on his handling of immigration (52 percent) and border security (54 percent). More say immigrants do more to help the country (55 percent) than hurt the country (41 percent). Nearly 7 in 10 Mormon voters — similar to the share of voters overall — also said immigrants should be offered a chance to apply for legal status, compared with about 3 in 10 saying they should be deported. Still, 54 percent of Mormons were in favor of the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Hundreds of thousands of Mormons have served proselytizing missions around the world, making them more sensitive to Trump’s hard-line stances than other Republicans.
McCombs reported from Salt Lake City.