Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was clear about the message the U.S. was sending in announcing a tax on Canadian softwood lumber imports: "It has been a bad week for U.S.-Canada trade relations."
The substance of the move isn't that unusual — the lumber dispute goes back to the 80s — but the combative rhetoric toward an ally is highly irregular.
It raises the question: is the Trump admin just trying to look tough ahead of the 100-day mark?
Our thought bubble: We're inclined to take this more seriously as a sign of things to come. Trump wants to re-examine every US trade relationship, especially those in Asia.
This puts to rest notions that Trump will morph into a "globalist" on trade. This is the one issue he's been consistent on for 30 years and his entire West Wing staff - including Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin - has come to accept that.
- The next one to watch: South Korea. With the five year anniversary of KORUS coming up, watch for Trump to take a hard look at that deal.
- Wilbur Ross is the point man on all this. Forcefully behind him are the nationalists on staff - Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Peter Navarro among others.
- Watch for more economic nationalist moves in lead up to Trump's Saturday night rally in Pennsylvania. He wants a full blown economic nationalist pitch to clash on split screen with media types sipping cocktails in their tuxedos at Washington's White House Correspondents' Dinner.