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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The first rule of trade negotiations is that they take place in private. The minute either side starts setting out goals and demands in public, positions become hardened and compromise becomes an embarrassing climbdown.

Why it matters: With the imposition of massive new tariffs this week, accompanied by explicit threats, Trump has taken Sino-American trade negotiations outdoors, into a public arena where they have much less chance of success. Even before announcing retaliatory countermeasures, China has similarly gone public with its own red lines. Resolving this dispute is not yet impossible, but it has become exponentially harder. Among the dangers:

  • Recession: Bank of America is already warning that "a trade war could cause a global recession." As Axios' Dion Rabouin has written, this is a war the world cannot afford.
  • Inflation: American tariffs on Chinese goods will increase the price of those goods. If that ends up contributing to domestic inflation, Trump's desire for a rate cut will look even less realistic.
  • Food dumping: As the FT's Alan Beattie notes, Trump has already started talking about using the tariffs as an excuse to dump America's agricultural surplus onto poor countries, undercutting their domestic markets.

The big picture: "When you have both sides convinced that they have the upper hand, you get the kind of conflict that you have right now," China trade expert Patrick Chovanec told Foreign Policy. He added:

"If we want China to embrace structural reform, that requires real commitment—it’s not something we can just twist their arm to do, they have to buy into it. And they have to believe that it is not going to sink them or hurt them. When you basically strongarm them into doing something they really don’t want to do, and they’re convinced it’s harmful to their interests, at some point they are going to cheat, push back, or scuttle it, and it’s just a question of when."

The bottom line: Trump's trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, might consider these tariffs to be a tough way of forcing China to make concessions. And the market seems hopeful that the trade war will be temporary, on the grounds that ending it would be rational for both sides. But Trump himself wanted these tariffs all along.

Go deeper: Farmers across the Midwest struggle to cope with Trump's trade war

Go deeper

44 mins ago - Science

The "war on nature"

A resident stands on his roof as the Blue Ridge Fire burned back in October in Chino Hills, Calif. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP

Apocalyptic weather is the new normal because humans are "waging war on nature," the UN declared on Wednesday.

What they're saying: "The state of the planet is broken," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, reports AP. “This is suicidal.”

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Nursing homes are still getting pummeledU.S. could hit herd immunity by end of summer 2021 if Americans embrace virus vaccines, Fauci says.
  2. Politics: Pelosi, Schumer call on McConnell to adopt bipartisan $900B stimulus framework.
  3. World: U.K. clears Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for mass rollout — Putin says Russia will begin large-scale vaccination next week.
  4. Business: Investors are finally starting to take their money out of safe-haven Treasuries.
  5. Sports: The end of COVID’s grip on sports may be in sight.

Pelosi, Schumer call on McConnell to adopt bipartisan $900B stimulus framework

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Nov. 20. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to use a $908 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief framework as a basis for jumpstarting negotiations.

Why it matters: The framework, introduced by a group of bipartisan senators on Tuesday, calls for significantly less funding than Pelosi had previously demanded — a sign that Democrats are ready to further compromise as millions of Americans endure economic hardship.