Aug 23, 2019 - Economy

The tweets of August

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump may not intend to launch the 2nd Cold War, but his tweets on Friday laid out one path to get there.

Why it matters: The president is using Twitter to demand a conscious uncoupling of the world's two largest economies.

Trump's tweets, sent after China announced retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion in U.S. goods:

  • "Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA."
  • "I am ordering all carriers, including Fed Ex, Amazon, UPS and the Post Office, to SEARCH FOR & REFUSE all deliveries of Fentanyl from China (or anywhere else!)"
  • "Starting on October 1st, the 250 BILLION DOLLARS of goods and products from China, currently being taxed at 25%, will be taxed at 30% ...Additionally, the remaining 300 BILLION DOLLARS of goods and products from China, that was being taxed from September 1st at 10%, will now be taxed at 15%..."

Reality check: Presidents don't get to order companies to come home.

Between the lines: Earlier on Friday, Fed chair Jay Powell warned that "trade policy uncertainty" is a driving factor for the market's fears.

  • Trump's response: "My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?"

Behind the scenes: Trump recently told advisers that he would be perfectly happy if the U.S. did no trade whatsoever with China, according to Axios' Jonathan Swan.

  • In late 2017, Trump first caught aides off guard when he floated the impossible idea of cutting off all trade with China.

The bottom line: All of this has gone down during a strong economy. Imagine how bad it'd get were things to turn in the other direction.

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