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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

In two cases involving his China trade war this week, President Trump suggested the U.S. should ignore historic separations of power and precedent if it yielded good results, Bloomberg's Shawn Donnan writes.

  1. Trump said the Federal Reserve should keep rates low to help the economy weather the trade war.
  2. Trump suggested he'd help free a Huawei executive that the U.S. is currently trying to extradite from Canada.

Why it matters: "U.S. officials have struggled for decades to convince suspicious foreign counterparts about the separation of powers ... They didn’t persuade all of the people all of the time — but the framing was central to America’s ability to lead by example," Donnan notes.

One example: "The U.S. worked hard to convince Japanese governments since the 1980s, for example, to stop trying to influence currency markets via public statements, according to Mark Sobel, a former senior Treasury official and U.S. representative to the International Monetary Fund."

  • "'We used to criticize everybody else for open-mouthed operations,' Sobel said."
  • "When we open our jaws about currency matters, it definitely gives license to others."

Between the lines: There's been no Federal Reserve chairman in recent memory who has had to defend the central bank's political independence as much as Jerome Powell, Axios' Courtenay Brown notes.

  • Any shift in Powell's tone about future interest rate hikes will be met with skepticism about whether or not Trump is getting to him.
  • What makes Trump different is that his Fed criticism is public for everyone (and other world leaders & central bankers) to hear.

The bottom line: Norms and precedents are boring. The lack of them is interesting, but almost always at a severe cost.

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Go deeper

D.C.-Beijing tensions are shifting markets

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. markets stand to lose $2 trillion in value if D.C. and Beijing drift further apart.

Why it matters: Political chasms are showing up in new securities regulations that put companies and investors in a bind. The rules are also another reflection of how much relations between the world’s largest economies have cooled, even as they remain economically interdependent. 

1 hour ago - Health
Axios Investigates

Documents reveal the secrecy of America's drug pricing matrix

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

American businesses spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on prescription drugs, and the bills keep getting bigger. But some of the companies promising to help rein in those costs prevent employers from looking under the hood.

Why it matters: Documents provided to Axios reveal a new layer of secrecy within the maze of American drug pricing — one in which firms that manage drug coverage for hundreds of employers, representing millions of workers, obscure the details of their work and make it difficult to figure out whether they're actually providing a good deal.

Congress' chip-funding pause raises alarms

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Despite bipartisan support in the Senate, a plea by the Commerce Secretary and growing desperation from industry officials, Congress still can't get a key bill that funds the U.S. chip business over the finish line.

Why it matters: With the global chip shortage continuing to crimp the economy, the semiconductor industry has ramped up pressure for funding of U.S.-based manufacturing facilities as one remedy.