Trump suggests NHL owner could help him with NAFTA negotiations

President Trump suggested on Tuesday that Ron Burkle, a co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins NHL team, could help his administration renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico.

Trump during a White House visit by the Stanley Cup championship team praised Burkle’s negotiating abilities, and suggested that the billionaire investor could play a role in NAFTA discussions.

“Ron, how about negotiating some of our horrible trade deals that they’ve made?” Trump asked. “Here’s what I want, I want to get him. Oh, I would love to have Ron Burkle.

“And it’s great to have you Ron. But I really mean that, if you want to get involved in negotiating NAFTA, I like it. Because we’re renegotiating NAFTA, Ron.”

“Of course, he may not like that, because maybe he’s on the other side,” Trump added. “You’re not on the other side of NAFTA, Ron, are you?”

Burkle could be heard responding: “I am not.”

Trump has railed against international trade deals, like NAFTA, as “unfair” to the U.S. and has vowed to renegotiate them.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to visit Washington on Wednesday — a trip that will overlap with the fourth round of NAFTA negotiations.

Trump has signaled more recently that he’s leaning toward scrapping the trade deal altogether, telling Forbes in an interview published Tuesday that “NAFTA will have to be terminated if we’re going to make it good.”

[The Hill]

 

Trump preparing withdrawal from South Korea trade deal

President Trump has instructed advisers to prepare a withdrawal from the United States’ free-trade agreement with South Korea, several people close to the process said, a move that would stoke economic tensions with the U.S. ally at a time both countries confront a crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

While it is still possible Trump could decide to stay in the agreement in order to renegotiate its terms, the internal preparations for terminating the deal are far along and the formal withdrawal process could begin as soon as this coming week, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A number of senior White House officials are trying to prevent Trump from withdrawing from the agreement, including national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, these people said.

A White House spokeswoman said “discussions are ongoing, but we have no announcements at this time.”

South Korea elected a new president, Moon Jae-in, in May, and Trump has been frustrated that Moon is not willing to accept the initial U.S. trade demands, several trade experts said. Foreign leaders at first worked hard to try and build strong relations with Trump, but there has been a marked change in recent months with numerous leaders standing up to his brand of nationalism.

Trump is “playing with fire,” said Gary Schmitt, co-director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “There is a new president in South Korea whose instincts probably are to be probably not as pro-America as his predecessor and now you are putting him in situation where he has to react. In fact, what you need now is as much cooperation as possible.”

One reason top White House advisers are trying to stop Trump from withdrawing from the South Korea free trade agreement is because they do not want to isolate the government in Seoul at a time when North Korea has become increasingly adversarial with its missile program, testing nuclear weapons and firing missiles over Japan in a way that has alarmed the international community.

If Trump withdraws from the agreement, he could try to force South Korea to import more U.S. products with little to no import restrictions, something he believes will help U.S. companies and workers. South Korea could also decide to refuse any discussions with Trump, kicking off a trade war between the countries.

The trade agreement was signed in 2007 and went into effect in 2012.

Withdrawing from the deal could lead to a large increase on tariffs levied against products the United States imports from South Korea, such as electronics, cellphones and automobiles. South Korea would also immediately start charging very high tariffs on goods and services imported into its country. Chad Bown, who served as an economist in the White House during the Obama administration, said the tariff the U.S. government charges against many Korean imports would rise from 0 to 3.5 percent. The tariff South Korea charges against U.S. imports would rise from 0 to almost 14 percent, potentially making it harder for U.S. companies to find buyers there.

Trump’s consideration of starting the process of pulling out of the deal was first reported by Inside U.S. Trade.

In July, U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer revealed some of Trump’s complaints with the South Korea deal during a “special session” that was called in an attempt by the White House to begin renegotiations.

Lighthizer said at the time that since 2012, the U.S. “trade deficit in goods with Korea has doubled from $13.2 billion to $27.6 billion, while U.S. goods exports have actually gone down. This is quite different from what the previous Administration sold to the American people when it urged approval of this Agreement. We can and must do better.”

South Korea, though, has so far refused to renegotiate the trade deal.

In an April interview with the Washington Post, Trump called the U.S.’s trade agreement with South Korea “a horrible deal” that has left America “destroyed.”

“With the Korean deal, we terminate and it’s over,” Trump told the Washington Post in that interview.

Trump added: “I will do that unless we make a fair deal. We’re getting destroyed in Korea.”

Trump has expressed widespread frustration that he has not been able to follow through on campaign promises to rip up trade deals that he argues have disadvantaged U.S. workers. He came close several months ago to starting a withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement, but he stopped short after intense lobbying by advisers and the business community.

But in recent days he has said he might still withdraw from NAFTA, accusing Mexico in particular of refraining to offer concessions during negotiations.

South Korea is the sixth-largest goods trading partner with the United States, accounting for $112.2 billion in two-way trade last year, according to the U.S. trade representative. U.S. companies exported $42.3 billion in goods to South Korea and imported $69.9 billion in goods last year, leaving a trade deficit of $27.7 billion.

Trump has said many countries that export more goods to the United States than they import are fleecing U.S. workers and consumers.

The U.S.-South Korea free-trade agreement, known as KORUS, allows the United States to terminate it after six months if it wishes to. So if Trump signed a letter to withdraw from the agreement, the deal would effectively be terminated in March 2018. KORUS was approved by Congress, but Trump could to pull out of the agreement on his own.

[Washington Post]

Trump Demands China Action: ‘I Want Tariffs. And I Want Someone to Bring Me Some Tariffs’

President Donald Trump recently dismissed some of his senior staff as globalists and demanded that someone draw up a plan for tariffs that would affect China, Axios reported Sunday evening.

Citing multiple sources with knowledge of the meeting — and noting that the White House had not disputed the accounts —the outlet reported that Trump had issued the demand during an Oval Office meeting with top advisors.

“So, John, I want you to know, this is my view. I want tariffs. And I want someone to bring me some tariffs,” Axios quotes the president as saying to John Kelly, his chief of staff.

Trump then reportedly ended his meeting by saying: “I know there are some people in the room right now that are upset. I know there are some globalists in the room right now. And they don’t want them, John, they don’t want the tariffs. But I’m telling you, I want tariffs.”

People in the meeting — which was set to be about plans to investigate China for intellectual property theft — included U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, trade advisor Peter Navarro, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, according to Axios.

Here’s the non-denial that the White House gave to Axios: “The president has been very clear about his agenda as it relates to trade. Discussions pertaining to specific tariffs and trade deals are ongoing and have already resulted in many positive developments.”

[CNBC]

Trump Fires Back at Merkel, Says Germany is ‘Very Bad’ For The US

President Donald Trump has criticized Germany once again for its large trade surplus with the U.S. and its low contributions to NATO, saying this attitude is “very bad” for the United States.

The comments made on Twitter take current tensions in U.S.-German relations a notch higher.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said at an election rally on Sunday that Germany and the European Union can no longer rely on the United States.

“The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over,” she told the rally in Munich.

“I’ve experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands,” she said. Her comments came as she steps up her campaign in the September federal election.

The image of friendly relations between Germany and the U.S. seems distant since Trump took office. His administration has previously said that Germany’s trade surplus is a result of the country’s manipulation of the euro.

Germany fought back arguing that it doesn’t have powers to manipulate the euro and the only reason consumers opt for its products is because they are more competitive.

Data released last February by the German Federal Statistics Office showed that Germany’s trade surplus rose to 252.9 billion euros ($270.05 billion) in 2016, surpassing the previous high of 244.3 billion euros in 2015. If it were a single trade partner, Germany would be the fifth largest in total trade flows with the U.S. But it runs the third largest trade surplus, after China and Japan.

Meanwhile, contributions to the defense alliance NATO has emerged as another problem between Berlin and Washington. Trump has repeatedly asked NATO allies to step up their contributions. At the moment, only 5 of the 28 members fulfill the target of paying at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

According to NATO data, Germany is currently spending 1.2 percent of its GDP on NATO. The U.S. spends 3.6 percent.

At a summit last week, Germany, like other NATO members, vowed to present an action plan on how it will increase defense spending. At the time, Trump told his allies they were being unfair toward U.S. taxpayers.

[CNBC]

‘The Germans Are Bad, Very Bad’: Trump Pledges to ‘Stop’ German Car Sales to US

President Donald Trump is ready to fight Germany in an auto battle according to Germany’s Der Spiegel.

Trump got a chilly reception at the NATO summit in Belgium after attacking fellow members. But he was caught pledging a battle with German automakers as part of his anger with “back dues” he feels the country owes to NATO. As CNN’s Jake Tapper noted Thursday, “Trump seems to think it’s like a country club.”

In a discussion about the country’s trade surplus, Trump said. “The Germans are evil, very evil.”

“Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US, and we’ll stop that,” sources told Der Spiegel.

According to the report, EU Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker took up for Germany explaining that “free trade is good for all.”

According to a report from the “Süddeutsche Zeitung,” the EU allies were horrified by the willingness of the Americans to view global trade with such a lack of awareness. Trump’s economic consultant Gary Cohn was said to have chided German auto trade during a discussion between the US and Germany and the USA and Belgium. Trump had previously attacked them during another conversation.

“I would say to BMW if they want to build a factory in Mexico and sell cars to the US without a 35 percent tax, they can forget that,” Trump said at the time.

The report revealed that since that comment, there has been “a threat of a criminal tax” in the room.

Trump is bothered by Germany’s trade surplus because many other countries have deficits, particularly the U.S.

[Raw Story]

Mexican president fact-checks Trump then disputes him over border wall payment discussion

Donald Trump flew into a nation he has constantly berated during his campaign to meet President Enrique Peña Nieto and said they discussed a wall Trump has vowed to build on the US southern border, but not his demand that Mexico pay for it — an assertion the Mexican president later disputed.

“Who pays for the wall? We didn’t discuss,” Trump had said when asked by a reporter during a news conference following their meeting in Mexico City. “We did discuss the wall. We didn’t discuss payment of the wall. That’ll be for a later date.”

But Peña Nieto later claimed the two had discussed the wall and who would pay for it — and he had “made it clear” to Trump it wouldn’t be Mexico.

“At the start of the conversation with Donald Trump, I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall,” Peña Nieto tweeted, after their meeting Wednesday.

He added that his conversation with the Republican nominee then moved on to other topics in a respectful fashion.

Jason Miller, Trump’s senior communications adviser, called the meeting “the first part of the discussion and a relationship builder” between the two men, after Peña Nieto tweeted.
“It was not a negotiation, and that would have been inappropriate. It is unsurprising that they hold two different views on this issue, and we look forward to continuing the conversation,” he said in a statement.

In subsequent interviews in Mexico, Peña Nieto reiterated his version of events. He told CNN affiliate Televisa in an interview late Wednesday some of the positions Trump has taken “are a threat to Mexico.”

He also told the outlet he was very clear with Trump about the subject of a wall at the border and insisted Mexico would not pay for it and he made Trump aware that the people of Mexico had been “very insulted.”

Peña Nieto, speaking alongside Trump during their joint appearance, twice stressed the “responsibility” he has to defend Mexican people around the world and said Trump has made “assertions that regrettably had hurt and have affected Mexicans.”

“The Mexican people have felt hurt by the comments that have been made. But I am sure that his genuine interest is to build a relationship that will give both of our society’s better welfare,” Peña Nieto said.

Trump apparently left his tough deal-making persona at home as he received a presidential-style news conference on foreign soil while on a high-risk trip to Mexico on Wednesday.

The visit appeared to be an attempt to bolster Trump’s credentials as a potential world leader, following searing attacks on his temperament by his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. The spur-of-the-moment trip also came hours before Trump was due to deliver a speech in Arizona meant to clarify his murky immigration policy amid signs he is softening his prior promise to deport 11 million undocumented migrants.

Trump’s claim that they didn’t discuss who would pay for the wall — despite his call for Mexico to finance it being a central theme of his campaign and one he frequently uses to fire up his supporters — appeared to be a noteworthy omission from Wednesday’s conversation when he mentioned it at their joint appearance.

The cost is one that Peña Nieto has previously refused to shoulder, just one of many issues where the two men have clashed. Peña Nieto, who has previously compared Trump to Adolf Hitler, greeted him courteously and said he was committed to working with whomever Americans elect as their next president in November.

But turning the tables on Trump, he gave the billionaire an earful on trade, said illegal immigration from Mexico to the US peaked years ago and complained of the torrent of guns that he said crossed the border and worsened Mexico’s drug wars.

Nieto said in an interview late Wednesday that some of the positions Donald Trump has taken “are a threat to Mexico.” He told CNN affiliate Televisa that he made Trump aware that the people of Mexico had been “very insulted” by his comments.

Trump’s backers were left to defend his decision not to mention his demand that Mexico pay for the border wall after the visit. Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio told CNN’s Jake Tapper: “What difference does it make? The wall’s important no matter who pays.”

While Trump’s decision not to raise who would pay for the wall appeared to undercut his deal-making swagger, it could also reassure some wavering Republican voters who dislike Clinton but are not yet convinced Trump possesses the restraint and sobriety required of a US president.

The sight of Trump alongside the Mexican president provided the photo-op that the campaign appears to have banked on despite not knowing how the candidate would be received.

Still, the Clinton campaign came out swinging, accusing Trump of failing to make good on his pledge to make Mexico pay for the wall by not raising the issue.

“Donald Trump has made his outlandish policy of forcing Mexico to pay for his giant wall the centerpiece of his campaign. But at the first opportunity to make good on his offensive campaign promises, Trump choked,” Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said in a statement.

“What we saw today from a man who claims to be the ultimate ‘deal maker’ is that he doesn’t have the courage to advocate for his campaign promises when he’s not in front of a friendly crowd,” Podesta said, before accusing Trump of wanting to build a costly wall at American taxpayers’ expense.

Podesta later added: “It turns out Trump didn’t just choke, he got beat in the room and lied about it.”

Peña Nieto began his remarks alongside Trump by saying the two held a constructive exchange of views even though “we might not agree on everything.”

He then launched into a detailed defense of US-Mexican trade and its benefit to both countries delivered by the North American Free Trade Agreement — a common punching bag for Trump on the campaign trail.

The Mexican leader told Trump that both the US and Mexico had benefited from NAFTA, saying more than six million US jobs rely on exports to Mexico.

“I don’t think that commerce must be considered a zero sum game, so that only one wins and the other one loses,” he said, though added he was prepared to make the two-decades-old deal, which also includes Canada, better for both nations.

Trump was also told by his host that Mexicans deserve everybody’s respect wherever they are, in an apparent reference to the GOP nominee’s harsh rhetoric towards undocumented migrants.

Trump, who listened to his host’s long remarks with a somber look on his face while a woman stood beside him at the podium translating for him, said that Mexicans were “spectacular” people when it was his turn to talk.

But he laid bare disagreements between the two men when he said it was imperative to stop the “tremendous outflow” of jobs from the United States over the southern border, and that NAFTA had benefited Mexico more than the US. And he stood up for America’s right to build a “physical barrier or wall” on its territory to stop illegal immigration and drug traffickers. Trump warned that NAFTA would have to be renegotiated.

Trump’s calls for deporting all undocumented workers, labeling many Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “criminals,” and plan to build a wall along the border — that Mexico would pay for — have earned him withering criticism from Peña Nieto, as well as many independents and moderate Republicans.

But they are central pillars of his campaign, which has galvanized his white working class base behind his White House bid. Those most fervently opposed to immigration have pushed back against the rumored “softening” in his stance that he could articulate on Wednesday night.

Trump, speaking from prepared remarks, was far more measured than in his campaign trail appearances. Though he mostly stuck his positions on renegotiating NAFTA and halting illegal immigration, he was also conciliatory. He referred to illegal immigration from Central America rather than just from Mexico. He said a secure border barrier would benefit both nations. And he spoke of the flight of jobs not from the United States but from also from Mexico and Central America to overseas economies.

It is not unusual for presidential candidates to venture abroad during a campaign. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney made trips to bolster their foreign policy credentials in 2008 and 2012.

But Trump’s approach — like the rest of his campaign — is highly unorthodox. Presidential candidates do not typically show up in foreign capitals for talks with leaders without intense preparation and highly choreographed game plans. Often, the parameters of a meeting are settled in advance. This trip was announced Tuesday night.

In addition, they usually visit strong allies where they are assured of a warm reception that will make for positive media coverage rather than sitting down with a leader who has compared them to Hitler and has disparaged their policy proposals.

Trump’s style, however, is more impulsive and unpredictable. He had never before met a foreign leader in an official capacity. So his trip represented something of a risk. Even though the meeting with Peña Nieto was private, he has no control over how the Mexican leader will address the public and how his officials will brief journalists about it afterward.

The trip was also unusual for not including his traveling press corps and coming against the advice of US diplomats.

The campaign’s decision to travel to a foreign country — one rife with security risks for a candidate who has stoked tensions with his rhetoric on Mexican immigrants — without reporters following close behind marks an unprecedented moment in the coverage of major party presidential nominees.

In addition, staff at the US Embassy in Mexico advised the Trump campaign against making such a hastily arranged trip, suggesting it would be logistically difficult to organize on such short notice, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

(h/t CNN)

Trump Threatens To Pull The U.S. Out Of The World Trade Organization

Donald Trump on Sunday threatened to pull the United States out of the World Trade Organization (WTO) if his plan to tax imports of U.S. companies that move their operations abroad is foiled.

The Republican presidential nominee called the international trade body a “disaster” and ratcheted up his anti-trade criticism in calling for the punishment of U.S. firms that move overseas.

He also doubled down on his push to either renegotiate or withdraw the United States from all of their global agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“There will be a tax to be paid,” Trump told Chuck Todd in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Trump has vowed to impose tariffs — in the range of 15 percent to 35 percent — on companies like Indiana-based Carrier, which is moving its operations to Mexico.

“If they’re going to fire all their people, move their plant to Mexico, build air conditioners, and think they’re going to sell those air conditioners to the United States, there’s going to be a tax,” he said.

When Todd said the import-tariff plan wouldn’t pass muster at the WTO, Trump said that is “even better.”

“Then we’re going to renegotiate or we’re going to pull out,” he said.

“These trade deals are a disaster,” he said. “You know, the World Trade Organization is a disaster.”

When Todd told Trump that his plan would rattle the world economy much like Great Britain’s exit from the European Union has done, the New York businessman didn’t retreat from his hard-line trade stance.

“We’re going to do it. We’re going to do it,” Trump said.

Ed Gerwin, a trade policy analyst with the Progressive Policy Institute, said Trump’s latest trade ideas, “even by his standards, are insane.”

“They would bring about unprecedented global economic chaos, plunge the U.S. into recession and destroy millions of good jobs,” Gerwin said. “They’d make Brexit look like an English garden party.”

Gerwin called Trump’s trade proposals “not only wrongheaded, but they’d be a bureaucratic nightmare.”

“Withdrawing from the WTO would turn the U.S. into the economic equivalent of North Korea — walled off from the global economy,” Gerwin said.

He added that any move to exit the trade body would allow 160 countries to “immediately slap high tariffs and other trade barriers on U.S. exports, putting at risk the millions of good jobs that depend on U.S. exports.”

A WTO exit also runs counter to Trump’s plans to punish China for trade violations, a big focus of the trade arm of his campaign, Gerwin noted.

“Withdrawing from the WTO would also cut the U.S. off from the WTO dispute settlement process, which the U.S. has used with considerable success to get China to change unfair trade practices,” he said.

“All of this is deeply ironic, given that Trump also says he wants to be tougher on China trade and given that Trump also says that he’d eliminate foreign duties on products like U.S. beef the day he gets into office,” he added.

Trade experts argue that raising taxes on companies or countries that Trump deems as violators of trade rules would only hurt U.S. consumers by pushing up prices on imported goods.

The comments created an instant backlash from trade experts on Twitter.

Scott Lincicome, a trade attorney, wrote: “I know trade is complicated, boring, & politically toxic, but Trump’s WTO threat is the econ equivalent of his NATO comments, maybe worse.”

In another tweet he said: “And, of course, withdrawing the US from the WTO would very likely collapse the global economy, crippling US biz, workers, consumers (esp poor).”

(h/t The Hill)

Reality

As president, Trump could not be able to create these tariffs by himself. Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution, authorizes Congress to levy taxes. Most of Trump’s threatened tariffs would violate decades of binding trade deals negotiated by previous administrations and agreed to by previous Congresses. However rather than looking into the legality, we will instead explore Trumps question who should care if there is a trade war.

Trump proposed a 35% tariff on American companies who outsource manufacturing outside of the United States and then ship the products for sale back home. A tariff is a tax on an imported good that is passed on to consumers, both individual and businesses. That’s right, you the consumer will pay Trump’s 35% tax which means you will pay more for the products you buy every day.

For example Forbes estimates Trump’s tariff plan would cost American consumers an extra $6 billion dollars per year just on Apple iPhones alone.

Media

Trump Remarks on NATO Trigger Alarm Bells in Europe

Donald Trump set off alarm bells in European capitals after suggesting he might not honor the core tenet of the NATO military alliance.

Trump said the U.S. would not necessarily defend new NATO members in the Baltics in the event of Russian attack if he were elected to the White House.

He told The New York Times in an interview published Thursday that doing so would depend on whether those countries had “fulfilled their obligations to us” in terms of their financial contributions to the alliance.

“You can’t forget the bills,” Trump told the paper. “They have an obligation to make payments. Many NATO nations are not making payments, are not making what they’re supposed to make. That’s a big thing. You can’t say forget that.”

(h/t NBC News)

Reality

NATO is not just a defensive military alliance against a Russia that looks to expand, but it is also a projection of American influence in Europe. Some, like Trump, may take NATO for granted now but just 2 years prior Russia invaded and annexed Crimea from southern Ukraine.

Trump’s comments were perceived by some analysts as carte blanche for Russia to intimidate NATO allies and a potential harbinger of the alliance’s collapse, which would be a global crisis, were Trump to be elected.

NATO’s treaty states that an attack on one member state constitutes an attack on all, a principle enshrined in Article 5 of the alliance’s treaty.

“If Trump wants to put conditions through Article 5, he would endanger the whole alliance,” said Beyza Unal, a fellow at the London-based Chatham House think tank.

Sarah Lain, a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, agreed. She said that Article 5 is the “core” of NATO’s defense strategy.

“The suggestion that Trump may consider abandoning a guarantee of protection to fellow NATO countries would in some ways indeed make NATO obsolete,” Lain told NBC News in an email.

Responses

In an interview with the New York Times, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Trump’s comments a “rookie mistake.”

“I am willing to kind of chalk it up to a rookie mistake,” he said. “I don’t think there is anybody he would choose to be secretary of defense or secretary of state who would have a different view from my own.”

Two additional Senate Republicans, neither of whom is attending this week’s Republican National Convention, condemned his comments, suggesting Congress would not follow his lead on the issue if he is commander-in-chief.

“As [Russian President Vladimir] Putin revives Soviet-style aggression and the threat of violent Islam looms over European and American cities, the United States stands with our NATO allies,” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., one of the most vocal elected officials in the never-Trump movement, said in a statement.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of Trump’s former Republican primary opponents, accused him of appeasing the Russian president with his assertions.

“I can only imagine how our allies in NATO, particularly the Balkan states, must feel after reading these comments from Mr. Trump. I’m 100 percent certain how Russian President Putin feels — he’s a very happy man,” Graham said.

“If Mr. Trump is serious about wanting to be commander-in-chief, he needs to better understand the job, which is to provide leadership for the United States and the free world,” Graham continued, also calling for Trump to “correct” his statements during his prime-time address Thursday evening.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, a former Air Force pilot, told ABC News he was deeply disturbed by Trump’s comments about NATO.

“To protect American first you have to have strong alliances,” he said. “This alliance has prevented 60 years of war.”

Trump’s comments, Kinzinger added, were “ridiculous and reckless,” and suggest that Trump doesn’t understand foreign policy.

Members of the Democratic Party also slammed Trump’s remarks, accusing him of friendliness with the same unsavory leaders with whom Republicans have accused President Barack Obama of being too conciliatory.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest noted that Republicans have long accused Obama of going on a “global apology tour.”

“I guess that means that there is some irony associated with the case that’s being made by the Republican nominee at this point,” Earnest said.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign condemned Trump’s remarks, also accusing him of cozying up to Putin.

“Over the course of this campaign, Trump has displayed a bizarre and occasionally obsequious fascination with Russia’s strongman, Vladimir Putin. And he has policy positions — and advisers — to match,” Clinton senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan said, citing a Washington Post report that Trump staffers persuaded convention delegates to strip language from the GOP platform that would have called for “providing lethal defensive weapons” to the Ukrainian military.

The White House has declined to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons, but mainstream Republicans have long called for the president to do so.

“Just this week, we learned that the Trump campaign went to great lengths to remove a plank from the GOP platform about aid to Ukraine that would have offended Putin, bucking a strongly held position within his own party … It is fair to assume that Vladimir Putin is rooting for a Trump presidency.”

Kingzinger, who isn’t sure if he’ll support Trump and has frequently criticized Trump’s foreign policy pronouncements, called the platform change “curious for sure.”

Although NATO does not frequently comment on issues related to member nations’ domestic politics, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general, weighed in on Trump’s comments, defending European allies’ contributions to NATO while avoiding commenting on the election directly.

“European allies are also stepping up,” he said. “For the first time in many years, defense spending among European allies and Canada rose last year.”

Secretary of State John Kerry was also pulled in to the fracas Thursday, fielding a question about Trump’s comments at a press conference at the State Department.

Prefacing his comments by saying he wasn’t making a statement about the presidential race, Kerry said he would restate American policy towards NATO.

“This administration, like every administration Republican and Democrat alike since 1949, remains fully committed to the NATO alliance and to our security commitments under Article 5, which is absolutely bedrock to our membership and to our partnership with NATO.”

Trump was also questioned about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s response to the failed military coup, and told the New York Times that the United States has “a lot of problems.”

“Our nominee is making the same arguments you hear in Russian propaganda and that you hear from left-wing liberals,” Kinzinger said of Trump’s criticisms.

Links

Quick history of NATO.

Why is NATO still needed, even after the downfall of the Soviet Union?

Trump: ‘Who the Hell Cares If There’s a Trade War?’

Trump asks who cares about a trade war.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump shot down critics of his strategy to prevent American companies from outsourcing, brushing off the idea of a trade war.

Trump touted his proposal for a 35 percent tariff on imports into the United States from the American companies that have outsourced to Mexico, China, and other countries.

“At least the United States is going to make a hell of a lot of money,” Trump said at a fundraiser for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. “And these dummies say, ‘Oh well that’s a trade war.'”

“Trade war? We’re losing $500 billion in trade with China. Who the hell cares if there’s a trade war?” Trump continued. “$500 billion, and they’re telling me about a trade war.”

Trump quickly added, “You’re not going to have a trade war,” predicting “China will behave” and “respect our country again” after slamming the country’s currency manipulation.

“We are not going to be the stupid country anymore. Folks, believe me, we are viewed as the stupid country,” Trump continued while pushing back on critics of his positions who argue that they’re anti-free trade.

“We’re like a big, big sloppy bully that gets punched in the face and goes down. You ever see a bully get knocked out? It’s a terrible thing, unless you’re doing the punching, then it’s OK.”

“We are going to make great deals for our country,” he added. “It might be free, it might not be free.”

(h/t The Hill)

Reality

As president, Trump could not be able to create these tariffs by himself. Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution, authorizes Congress to levy taxes. Most of Trump’s threatened tariffs would violate decades of binding trade deals negotiated by previous administrations and agreed to by previous Congresses. However rather than looking into the legality, we will instead explore Trumps question who should care if there is a trade war.

Trump proposed a 35% tariff on American companies who outsource manufacturing outside of the United States and then ship the products for sale back home. A tariff is a tax on an imported good that is passed on to consumers, both individual and businesses. That’s right, you the consumer will pay Trump’s 35% tax which means you will pay more for the products you buy every day.

For example Forbes estimates Trump’s tariff plan would cost American consumers an extra $6 billion dollars per year just on Apple iPhones alone.

Trump Questions Need For NATO

Donald Trump said the U.S. should rethink its involvement in NATO because the defense alliance costs too much money.

In remarks to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Trump said the U.S. pays a disproportionate amount to NATO to ensure the security of allies.

“Frankly, they have to put up more money,” he said. “We are paying disproportionately. It’s too much, and frankly it’s a different world than it was when we originally conceived of the idea.”

In a CNN Town Hall Trump said about NATO:

“[NATO is] costing us too much money, and frankly, have to put up more money… We’re taking care of, as an example, the Ukraine. I mean, the countries over there don’t seem to be so interested. We’re the ones taking the brunt of it. So I think we have to reconsider — keep NATO, but maybe we have to pay a lot less toward the NATO itself. “

Reality

Ukraine is not a member of NATO, and Washington is not providing arms to the government as it is fighting pro-Moscow rebels, though has provided nonlethal aid and has helped support international bailouts of the Ukrainian economy. Once the third-largest nuclear power in the world, Ukraine agreed to give up its nuclear weapons in return for an assurance that the U.S. would help protect its sovereignty. Critics point out that Trump’s remarks were “really quite astonishing,” speculating that Trump is ignorant of the United States’ diplomatic relations with Ukraine.

It’s unfortunate that a day after making these remarks a terrorist attack occurred in Brussels, highlighting the importance of NATO.

It is important to point out that the United States “taking the brunt” as Mr. Trump has suggested, is a bit of loaded statement. All member countries have pledged at lest 2% of their GDP to fund NATO, and the United States has by far and away the highest GDP of all member nations, in-fact 6 times more than Germany who has the next highest GDP of the NATO members. The whole theory of NATO is to keep the United States involved in Europe long-term, to promote our goals, and to deter another world war, so of course we would be spending more. However it is fair to point out that President Obama has been critical of some of the European partners for not spending enough to fund NATO.

Links

http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/21/politics/elections-2016-final-five-highlights/index.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/donald-trump-hopelessly-naive-dead-wrong-on-nato-gop-candidates-say/