President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he wants to avoid policies that make it difficult for other countries to do business with the United States — even as his administration has done precisely the opposite.
Trump has imposed tariffs on billions of dollars in goods and launched disputes with most key US trading partners over the past three years, but in a lengthy Twitter thread, the president said, "We don't want to make it impossible to do business with us. That will only mean that orders will go to someplace else."
"The United States cannot, & will not, become such a difficult place to deal with in terms of foreign countries buying our product, including for the always used National Security excuse, that our companies will be forced to leave in order to remain competitive," he tweeted.
Trump appeared to be directing his tweets at hardliners in his White House, referring to a proposal to block General Electric from selling jet engines to China.
"I want China to buy our jet engines, the best in the World," he said. "I have seen some of the regulations being circulated… and they are ridiculous."
US officials are considering denying a license to CFM International, a joint venture between GE and France's Safran SA, to export more of its jet engines to China, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend, citing people familiar with the discussions.
The report said the aim was to cripple development of China's Comac airliner.
National security threat
But Trump has freely used the national security justification in his confrontational trade strategy, imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum worldwide to protect key American industry, and threatening to do likewise for cars from Europe.
In the most costly trade conflict, Trump announced tariffs on virtually 100 percent of goods imported from China. A truce signed in January suspended the most damaging of those, but the majority remain in place.
US trading partners have not stood idly by as Trump imposes tariffs, retaliating with punitive duties on American goods like bourbon, motorcycles and farm products, which obliged the government to provide millions in aid to farmers.
In the latest dispute — a 15-year-old case over European government subsidies to Airbus — Washington hit out with 25 percent tariffs on a host of goods, including Scotch whisky, French and Spanish wines, and English cheeses.
Trump also slapped penalties on French goods in response to a digital tax.
Nonetheless, he said, "I want to make it EASY to do business with the United States, not difficult."
"The United States Is Open For Business!"
In fact, US companies have been forced to shift operations or find new sources for components, or plead for exemptions from the trade policies.
Likewise, foreign buyers of American goods have gone elsewhere in many cases.
"With each round of cascading tariffs, Trump has bullied more American companies into becoming protectionist," Chad Bown, trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said in a recent paper.
"For many Americans, the higher costs resulting from his tariffs mean they can no longer compete with foreign firms in either the US or global market."