Trade War Critics Propose Trump Businesses Sanctions

A Democratic congressman and a former Canadian diplomat are calling on nations to respond to President Donald Trump’s tariffs on international trade by sanctioning Trump-owned businesses.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) wrote in an opinion piece published Friday in The Guardian that targeting Trump businesses could force Trump to feel his anti-trade policies without further damage to the economy.

Trump can “easily weather broad sanctions of the U.S. economy,” Ellison wrote in his article, titled, “Dear Europe, If You Want To Stop Trump, Sanction His Companies.” “But sanctions targeting his own companies will sting in a way that he cannot ignore.” 

Trump is vulnerable to business pressure because, unlike previous presidents, he hasn’t divested from his operations and has interests all over the world.

Ellison argued that the presidency has benefitted the fortunes of Trump and his family through massive tax cuts, China trademarks for Ivanka Trump’s business operations, plugs for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago on the State Department website, and a $500 million loan to a Trump-linked business operation in Indonesia announced days before the president demanded that sanctions be dropped on China telecom giant ZTE. 

Debbie Shon, a former trade official in the Clinton administration now a trade lawyer, said hitting Trump’s businesses would be legal, but it could be challenging. An effective strategy would require a “tailored” measure “targeting key industries like real estate,” she told Business Insider.

“Don’t sanction or impose tariffs on Minnesota companies that share no responsibility for Trump’s policies,” Ellison wrote. Instead, he suggested that Europe and others boycott Trump properties, or block European money in Trump deals. “Just moving ahead on the planned placement of windmills near his Scottish golf course might be more likely to get Trump’s attention than a tax on motorcycles,” he wrote.

Europe’s problem dealing with Trump, Ellison cautioned, is that it has “failed to understand that … like a dictator of a developing country, Trump is less concerned with the prosperity of American families … than with enriching himself and his family businesses.”

The idea of anti-Trump economic sanctions was first raised last month in the Canadian newsmagazine Maclean’s by commentator Scott Gilmore, a former Canadian diplomat.

“Instead of taxing American goods, Canada and the western allies should collectively pressure the only pain point that matters to this president: his family and their assets,” Gilmore wrote. He argued that countries that have success dealing with Trump “go state-to-man. These countries focus on what Trump wants on a personal level ― to enrich his family.” 

Gilmore listed Trump properties so that Canadians can boycott them in the wake of the president’s nasty exchange with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

An editorial in the Houston Chronicle lambasting Trump for pulling the G7 international alliance “apart at the seams” also cited Gilmore’s commentary.

“Instead of responding with retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, the nations targeted by steel and aluminum tariffs should go after Trump himself,” the newspaper wrote.

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