Late this week, China announced new tariffs on $75 billion worth of US goods, and President Trump angrily retaliated by announcing raises in the tariffs he’s already placed on many goods from China.
Trump also tweeted that he “hereby ordered” American companies to start looking for alternatives to China and bringing their jobs back to America.
That order brought on the usual mockery from the left (“delusions of thinking he has that power”) and fury from the right (“Presidents shouldn’t interfere with private sector business decisions.”) But I like to deal with reality, so just to be clear:
Yes, Presidents do have the power to do what Trump ordered (leftists have never acknowledged that Trump really is President, so they’re constantly accusing him of being delusional for thinking he has Presidential powers.) As law professor Glenn Reynolds of the Instapundit blog points out, this falls under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act or IEEPA. There have even been similar uses of it under Obama and Gerald Ford.
The question is not whether Trump has the power to issue that order, but is it a serious order or just a message to China that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to stare them down? It’s most likely the latter, since invoking the IEEPA would require him first to declare a national emergency based on economic threats, which he hasn’t done.
Bottom line: this is probably just a hardball negotiating tactic, which is good because we not only must renegotiate our terrible trade deals with China, but Beijing also has to learn that they need us more than we need them before they pull any more aggressive military moves anywhere from Greenland to Hong Kong. Businesses that have their manufacturing in China probably won’t consider it a binding order to immediately move their facilities elsewhere. Then again, whether Trump orders them to or not, it might be prudent to have a plan for that contingency in their back pockets anyway.