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“Global Trade War Looms, But It’s Not Just Trade War To Fear”

“Global Trade War Looms, But It’s Not Just Trade War To Fear”

History, Humility, and Wishful Thinking

The UK election and the “I will protect you, but forgot my umbrella” Tory campaign have both been shaken up by its pledge to bring back conscription for 18-year-olds. This is seen as a desperate gamble and sad joke by many commentators, and even ex-military leaders say it’s silly to enroll unskilled, unwilling young adults when the armed forces need more equipment of all sorts, which the recent 2.5% of GDP defense spending pledge falls very far short of. Yet the joke must also be on those laughing when the global backdrop is so very serious.

Stop thinking about Friday’s US PCE deflator data for a moment and look at the bigger picture. The main Bloomberg headline today is the G7 warning China over its trade practices. They want “balanced and reciprocal collaboration,” and will “consider taking steps to ensure a level playing field.” The US is already going to let tariff exclusions on hundreds of Chinese items expire, and the EU may be leaning towards a high tariff on Chinese EVs. Elsewhere, China is asking South Korea to maintain stable supply chains, as it moves closer to the US, and even Brazil, Chile, and Mexico have recently raised tariffs on Chinese steel.

In short, global trade war looms, and as Bastiat noted, “If goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.” The problematic inverse is that even Adam Smith implied if some goods cross borders, soldiers don’t need to, and others won’t be able to when needed.

It’s not just trade war to fear. China just finished a huge military exercise that clearly rehearsed a blockade of Taiwan and says it will no longer accept US congressional delegations to Taipei: one including the CEO of Nvidia just opted to visit anyway

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