The terrible twos are finally here, And this is the time that I really do fear. —Gerard McNeil, The Terrible Twos
It is the second year of the Trump reign. Many of the king’s tweets bring to mind the small child who, having fretted all night over a perceived parental slight, storms out of his or her bedroom early in the morning and enters the parents’ bedroom to awaken both the parents and the controversy that the parents mistakenly thought had been put to rest along with the truculent child. In Mr. Trump’s world, however, the early morning tweet gives the president comfort and permits him to awaken not just the parents, but the entire world, to his continued anger at perceived slights. Sometimes, of course, presidential petulance clouds that which would, were he possessed of any, be referred to as good judgement. In the recent case it demonstrates that in his infantile fury, he has chosen to express anger towards China, in the process failing to acknowledge a great benefit that was given him and his family by that country.
China is the country whose leader and the leader’s wife had been, less than one year before the emission of the tweets, entertained by Mr. Trump in his favorite playroom at Mar-a-Lago. At the conclusion of that meeting, Mr. Trump exulted that: “I think we have made tremendous progress in our relationship with China. We’ll be making a lot of additional progress.” Although Mr. Trump did not refer to it, his exuberance may have been motivated by more than the congeniality that accompanied the dinner. It may be that he had advance knowledge of the great gift that China had bestowed on his daughter, Ivanka and her company, at almost the same time the dinner was taking place. That treatment pertained to intellectual property and, more specifically, trade mark protection in China for Ivanka Trump’s products. It was like the favorable treatment Mr. Trump’s brand had received.
Soon after Mr. Trump was elected, and after years of litigation over the Trump companies’ request for trademark protection in China, he was granted 38 trademarks for businesses such as hotels, insurance and bodyguard services. That good fortune was mirrored by Ivanka’s good fortune. At almost the same time that Ivanka, President Xi, his wife, Mr. Trump, his wife, and others, were being served their dinner in the Trump play house, Ivanka Trump Marks LLC was given three new trademarks for the Ivanka Trump brand by Chinese authorities. Those trademarks give her company monopoly rights to sell her products of jewelry, luggage and spa services in China. The award of the three new trademarks brought to seven, the number of trademarks her company had been granted by China since her father became president
According to reports, the Trumps’ other holdings also fared much better than the holdings of many other American companies doing business in China. According to the American Chamber of Commerce, in 2015, 77% of its members said they felt unwelcome in China and, by 2016 that number had increased to 81%. According to a report in the Guardian: “American businesses in China said they face one of the toughest climates in decades, largely due to increasing animosity towards foreign firms and slowing economic growth.” Ivanka’s company still has 32 requests pending. They may not fare as well as the initial seven.
That is because in an amazing display of ingratitude, the Terrible Tweeter has engaged in an astonishing display of biting the hand that feeds you. Instead of thanking Mr. Xi for the generous treatment received by the Trump brands, Mr. Trump has suggested that the way to deal with his benefactors in China is to engage in a trade war with them.
Almost exactly a year to the day following the wonderful dinner in the Trump playhouse, Mr. Trump announced that he would place tariffs of $50 billion on imported goods from China as punishment for what he described as thefts of American intellectual property.
As Mr. Trump explained in a tweet: “Now we have a Trade Deficit of $500 billion a year, with Intellectual Property Theft of another $300 Billion. We cannot let this continue.”
Trademarks that have been secured by Mr. Trump and his family are, of course intellectual property, and Mr. Trump was not suggesting that his or Ivanka’s trademarks have been stolen. Quite the contrary. They are what enable him and his family to profit from their trade mark protection. His terrible-twos tweets come from his anger over the treatment of those American companies that have not been as fortunate as he and his family in their business dealings in China. It is his way of saying that he feels their pain. That is probably small comfort to them and all the rest of the country that will be adversely affected if he follows through on his threat to begin a trade war with China. So sad.