Tuesday, April 19, 2016
(I THOUGHT THAT WOULD GET YOUR ATTENTION)
With all the ruckus over Republican Presidential contender Donald Trump’s manners and what he does know and what he doesn’t know about trade, he said one thing right recently.
Mr. Trump told an audience in Vandalia, Ohio, last month that he liked Caroline Kennedy – current ambassador to Japan – but said she is not the type to negotiate trade with the country. Trade – and righting the out-of-whack trade balance – would be his ambassador’s prime responsibility under a Trump Administration.
Japan currently holds a $69-billion annual surplus with the United States.
Instead, Mr. Trump says he would choose a US envoy who would be a “horrible” human being – crude and vicious – “who nobody would want anything to do with.”
I’ve been in this trade reporting business for a long time. Here’s a true story that proves Mr. Trump’s point.
The individual will remain nameless to protect his innocence. This professional trade negotiator was at the height of his career at the time. He was charged with negotiating a long-standing sticking point in an important trade negotiation with Korea.
The negotiator jetted off to Seoul – unprepared for an extended stay. No room was booked and he didn’t even have a suitcase packed. The negotiator got on the airplane, arrived in Seoul and was promptly shuttled off to an official welcoming dinner, according to a very reliable source.
Determined, the negotiator started his work and stayed at the dinner until the early hours of the morning – refusing even to take a break and begin talks afresh in the morning. The negotiator’s clothing – already rumpled – presented quite a contrast to the impeccably dressed Koreans.
Like Mr. Trump, the negotiator flaunted his typically New York City mannerisms, abruptly calling things as he sees them, with little concern for State Department-style diplomacy.
(An aside, the US negotiator had ripped his pants in a strategic location on the trip and managed to “fix” them with a borrowed stapler – which I suppose made getting agreement from the Koreans all the more urgent.)
Refusing to break off the talks temporarily, the US negotiator continued to pick at his Korean dishes with his fingers – disgusting the very polite Koreans. Around four in the morning, one Korean negotiator was heard to say to his colleague that he had had enough – and gave in.
Off went the US negotiator to the airport in the same rumpled clothes having settled the issue less than 12 hours from when he arrived.
Yep. Trump got it right.