Donald Trump to Asia: Money, Please
United States President Donald Trump arrives in Japan on Sunday for the start of a 12-day trip around East Asia. Much of the trip will focus on cementing alliances and dealing with North Korea. But there’s another very important task on Mr. Trump’s to-do list: Ask for money.
William Pesek, Tokyo-based journalist who writes for Bloomberg, the South China Morning Post and others, warned that America relies on Asia to balance its budget. In an article titled “Trump Must Tread Carefully With His Asian Bankers,” published October 30, he wrote:
As Donald Trump angles to make America’s debt burden great again, he has some finessing to do with his bankers.
No, not Russia in this case, but China and Japan, both by far the biggest holders of U.S. Treasuries with a combined $2.3 trillion.
South Korea also loans the U.S. nearly $100 billion. Pesek pointed out that all these countries are bound to worry about Mr. Trump’s tax-cut plans, which are forecast to add $1.5 trillion to America’s debt. Pesek continued:
As China’s Xi Jinping digs in for another five-year term—with no heir apparent in sight—Washington’s top investor may not be in a giving mood.
Nor might he be very forgiving about tax changes that widen America’s budget deficit and threaten the value of Beijing’s $1.2 trillion of Treasuries. Trump, after all, has on more than one occasion raised the specter of defaulting on debt to gain leverage in negotiations.
Pesek noted that previous Chinese leaders have questioned the wisdom of loaning America yet more money. “We have made a huge amount of loans to the United States,” then Premier Wen Jiabo said in the wake of America’s massive stimulus program in 2009. “Of course, we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I’m a little bit worried.”
Other leaders have talked about this debt as a weapon. In 2011, as former President Barack Obama drew closer to Taiwan, the state-run People’s Daily wrote that “now is the time for China to use its financial weapon to teach the U.S. a lesson.” In 2007, Xia Bin, then a senior cabinet minister, said that China’s holding of U.S. dollars should be used as a “bargaining chip” in trade talks with the U.S. He Fan, an official at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, referred to China’s vast holding of America’s debt as Beijing’s “nuclear option.”
Relations with Japan should prove much warmer. But as Pesek pointed out:
Trump reneging on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, bashing the weak yen and Toyota on Twitter, and provoking Kim Jong-un aren’t winning him much love in Tokyo.
Bottom line, Trump has some financial diplomacy to do in Asia these next couple of weeks.
The U.S., it’s often said, built a strong and innovative economy on a hill. But Asia holds the mortgage and might not take kindly to Trump’s tax adventure.
Pesek obviously disapproves of Mr. Trump’s proposed tax cut; nevertheless, he makes a good point. America’s massive borrowing have given these Asian nations huge power over America’s prosperity.
Barry Eichengreen, professor of Economics at the University of California–Berkeley, made a similar point earlier in the month. In an article titled “The Demise of Dollar Diplomacy?” he crunched the numbers and proved that U.S. allies are much more likely to invest in the U.S. dollar. It follows, then, that if these allies abandon America, they will probably abandon the dollar too. Eichengreen wrote:
South Korea and Japan are thought to hold about 80 percent of their international reserves in dollars. One can imagine that the financial behavior of these and other countries would change dramatically, with adverse implications for the dollar’s exchange rate and U.S. borrowing costs, were America’s close military alliances with its allies to fray.
With the rise of North Korea, “the U.S. security guarantee for Asia will weaken, in turn providing China an opportunity to step into the geopolitical breach,” he wrote. “And where China leads geopolitically, its currency, the renminbi, is likely to follow.”
Such a replacement would be catastrophic for America’s economy.
America’s massive debt has left it dependent on all these foreign powers. What if these nations “decide to blackmail us?” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry asked in a 2009 Key of David program. What if they say, “Look, if you don’t do what we want, we’re going to take our money back—and your stock market is going to do what?”
Already, experts are saying this needs to be a consideration for Mr. Trump’s trip! Mr. Flurry continued:
Well, I’ll tell you, it’s a serious problem, and we can be blackmailed because of that lack of character by countries like that that really are, themselves (in China’s case, anyhow) wanting to rule the world.
Churchill said, “All history has proved the peril of being dependent upon a foreign state.” Now, he was talking about for military help and that, but the same principle would apply. The same principle would apply to having a huge deficit like that. It’s hazardous beyond words to describe.
The Bible warns that these powers will ultimately use this economic power against the U.S. There are specific prophecies discussing an economic siege. For more on this coming siege and economic warfare, read Trumpet managing editor Brad Macdonald’s article “Trade Wars Have Begun.”