In the span of just a few hours, President Trump flipped to new positions on several core policy issues, backing off on no less than five repeated campaign promises.
In a WSJ interview and a subsequent press conference, Trump either shifted or completely reversed positions on a number of foreign and economic policy decisions, including the fate of the US Dollar, how to handle China and the future of the chair of the Federal Reserve.
Goodbye strong dollar and high interest rates
In an announcement that rocked currency markets, Trump told the WSJ that the U.S. dollar “is getting too strong” and he would prefer the Federal Reserve keep interest rates low. “I do like a low-interest rate policy, I must be honest with you,” Mr. Trump said. “I think our dollar is getting too strong, and partially that’s my fault because people have confidence in me. But that’s hurting—that will hurt ultimately,” he added. “Look, there’s some very good things about a strong dollar, but usually speaking the best thing about it is that it sounds good.”
Trump then said the one thing that every other currency manipulator realizes all too well: “It’s very, very hard to compete when you have a strong dollar and other countries are devaluing their currency.”
During his campaign Trump had repeatedly said that a “strong dollar” policy would be beneficial for the US economy, despite our repeat warnings that he will inevitably reverse on this, especially if and when the “Goldman” circle of advisors starts providing macroconomic advice.
It is unclear if the shift in Trump’s policy will mean that US economic data will now “mysteriously” begin to deteriorate to justify not only his request for a weaker dollar, but to also hit the breaks on Yellen’s plans for further rate hikes over the next 2-3 years. In any case, the debate over the Fed’s balance sheet unwind, and the trajectory of Fed hikes, is now on indefinite hiatus.
The biggest loser here, again, are America’s savers who may have been hoping that their bank deposits will finally earn some interest.
As for the most notable outcome from this Trump statement, is that it counters his “desire” for a weaker dollar with the Fed’s tightening bias. Will fireworks fly as Trump realizes that Yellen’s actions are prompting the strong dollar? Stay tuned for what may be the most entertaining clash yet: Trump vs Yellen.
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Labeling China a currency manipulator
Trump also told the Wall Street Journal that China is not artificially deflating the value of its currency, a big change after he repeatedly pledged during his campaign to label the country a currency manipulator.
“They’re not currency manipulators,” the president said, adding that China hasn’t been manipulating its currency for months, and that he feared derailing U.S.-China talks to crack down on North Korea. Trump routinely criticized President Obama for not labeling China a currency manipulator, and promised during the campaign to do so on day one of his administration.
Trump’s declaration also means that Peter Navarro may as well pack his bags, as the Goldman economic advisory team has now won its contest with the “Bannon nationalist” circle.
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Trump also told the Journal he’d consider re-nominating Yellen to chair the Fed’s board of governors, after attacking her during his campaign.” I like her. I respect her,” Trump said, “It’s very early.”
Trump called Yellen “obviously political” in September and accused her of keeping interest rates low to boost the stock market and make Obama look good. “As soon as [rates] go up, your stock market is going to go way down, most likely,” Trump said. “Or possibly.”
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Trump also voiced support behind the Export-Import Bank, which helps subsidize some U.S. exports, after opposing it during the campaign.
“It turns out that, first of all, lots of small companies are really helped, the vendor companies,” Trump told the Journal. “Instinctively, you would say, ‘Isn’t that a ridiculous thing,’ but actually, it’s a very good thing. And it actually makes money, it could make a lot of money.”
Trump’s support will anger conservative opponents of the bank, who say it enables crony capitalism.
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Finally, Trump said NATO is “no longer obsolete” during a Wednesday press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, backtracking on his past criticism of the alliance. During the campaign, he frequently called the organization “obsolete,” saying did little to crack down on terrorism and that its other members don’t pay their “fair share.”
“I said it was obsolete. It is no longer obsolete,” the president said Wednesday.
Trump has gradually become more supportive of NATO after it ramped up efforts to increase U.S. and European intelligence sharing regarding terrorism. Trump still insisted that NATO allies “meet their financial obligations and pay what they owe.” He said he discussed with Stoltenberg his desire that allies put 2 percent of their gross domestic products into defense by 2024.
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Add to this Trump’s first, most prominent reversal, the launch of air strikes on Syria last Friday after repeatedly bashing Obama for even considering that, and Trump’s transformation into a mainstream politician now appears complete.