Some trade issues could be left unresolved if the president’s COVID-19 symptoms worsen and he has to cut back on official duties before the election, experts told Politico Morning Trade.
Major executive actions, like new moves on the TikTok or WeChat bans, and issues where the president has taken special interest, like EU aircraft tariffs, could take a backseat if the president has to reduce his workload.
Some trade experts say the White House may be goaded into more protectionist actions — especially against China — to try to change the subject in the coming weeks if Trump’s condition continues to dominate the headlines.
“He is a master of distraction and changing the subject, so I definitely would expect something,” said Bill Reinsch, a former Clinton trade official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Since both candidates are accusing each other of being soft on China, I can see him being tempted to do something to show he’s tough, however counterproductive it might be.”
Former officials and trade experts say his lauded Maine lobster, Wisconsin dairy and Florida seasonal crop deals — to name a few — could help him garner support from voters in the states he needs for reelection.
“The advantage of incumbency is you can do things and take action and enact your policies that have positive political impact for you,” said Tim Keeler, a former USTR and Treasury Department official. “It can’t hurt him.”
While he’s failed to deliver on some of his bigger promises including a full-on Japan deal, phase two China deal or breakthrough with the European Union or India, experts suggest a strategy to showcase the small wins and anticipated benefits of USMCA.