WASHINGTON — President Trump is embracing a new tactic as he tries to rewrite the rules of global trade: Don’t believe a final deal is truly final.
Mr. Trump, who has called deal-making his “art form,” has used his unpredictability as a source of leverage in discussions with Europe, Canada, Mexico, Japan and elsewhere. He has dangled the possibility of lifting American metal tariffs while threatening to add new tariffs on automobiles at any time. He has repeatedly agreed to new trade terms with foreign partners, then talked about undoing those deals to achieve additional goals.
Mr. Trump has argued that this aggressive and unpredictable negotiating style allows him to extract greater economic concessions than past administrations — and he may be right, at least in the short run. But his approach is causing concern among business groups and foreign officials, who say the uncertainty Mr. Trump loves to sow could undermine the role the United States has traditionally played in setting and stabilizing the global rules of trade, hampering economic growth in the process.
His administration is working on a slew of trade deals, including agreements with South Korea, Canada and Mexico and attempts to reach trade terms with China, Europe and Japan. On Monday, the European Union is expected to vote on a mandate that would give the bloc the authority to negotiate a trade agreement with the United States. And Japanese officials are scheduled to meet on Monday in Washington for preliminary trade talks with their American counterparts.
But constantly moving the goal posts comes at a cost. In upending the norms of international relationships, trade experts say Mr. Trump appears to be encouraging some partners to drag their feet in dealings with the United States or find other trading partners to diversify away from the relationship. The president has also created uncertainty for companies that may throw the entire benefit of any trade deal he strikes into question.
“This administration’s approach to trade is bully, bully, bully,” said Mary Lovely, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “What will be the ramifications in the future? We really don’t know. We need cooperation on so many things.”
“本届政府对待贸易的方式就是霸凌、霸凌、霸凌，”彼得森国际经济研究所(Peterson Institute for International Economics)高级研究员玛丽·洛夫利(Mary Lovely)说。“未来的后果会是怎样？我们真的不知道。我们在太多事务上都需要合作。”
Canada and Mexico have been forced to repeatedly scramble as a result of Mr. Trump’s tactics. After months of painful negotiations, the United States reached a revised North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico last year. Mr. Trump in November hailed the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement as “probably the largest trade deal ever made” and called on Congress to immediately ratify the pact.
由于特朗普的策略，加拿大和墨西哥反复被迫紧急行动起来。在持续数月的痛苦谈判之后，美国于去年同加拿大和墨西哥达成了修订版《北美自由贸易协定》(NAFTA)。11月，特朗普曾称赞这一新的《美国-墨西哥-加拿大协议》（United States Mexico Canada Agreement，简称USMCA）“可能是有史以来最大的贸易协议”，并呼吁国会立即批准。
He has since undercut his own agreements, refusing to lift American tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico and, more recently, threatening to override the new U.S.M.C.A. by taxing imports of cars and car parts from Mexico. The United States had signed an agreement with both Canada and Mexico as part of the deal that would immediately prevent the United States from taxing auto imports, but Mr. Trump has since threatened to scrap that.
On April 5, the same day that Mr. Trump’s negotiators were meeting in Washington with their Chinese counterparts to haggle over their trade deal, Mr. Trump threatened to put a 25 percent tariff on Mexican cars “if for any reason Mexico stops apprehending and bringing the illegals back to where they came from.”
“This will supersede USMCA,” the president wrote.
It is not clear that the president, who has repeatedly threatened auto tariffs on trading partners, would follow through with his threat. If he does, Canada and Mexico could reasonably argue that all of the agreements reached in the U.S.M.C.A. are void, resulting in the breakup of a trade pact, which is a critical agreement for businesses across North America.
“Because he is so unpredictable, you are not sure he’ll stick to anything,” said Maryscott Greenwood, chief executive of the Canadian American Business Council.
“因为他太不可预测，你不确定他是否会坚持任何事情，”加拿大美国商业理事会(Canadian American Business Council)首席执行官玛丽斯科特·格林伍德(Maryscott Greenwood)说。
Last week, the International Monetary Fund cited global trade uncertainty, including Mr. Trump’s trade wars, as it slashed its projections for global growth. And in a survey by the Business Roundtable last September, nearly two-thirds of responding chief executives said recent tariffs and trade policy uncertainty would have a negative effect on investment decisions over the next six months.
Jesús Seade Kuri, the under secretary for North America at the Mexican foreign ministry, was in Washington last week to meet with legislators and lobby for passage of the Nafta replacement. He told reporters at a news conference that Mexico did not intend to mix discussions of trade with migration and avoided comment on the auto tariff threat.
墨西哥外交部北美次长赫苏斯·塞亚德·库里(Jesús Seade Kuri)上周在华盛顿会见了国会议员，并就通过NAFTA的替换协议进行游说。他在新闻发布会上告诉记者，墨西哥无意将贸易谈判与移民问题混为一谈，且回避就汽车关税威胁置评。
But in an interview with a Mexican radio station on Friday, Mr. Seade laughed off the threat of auto tariffs. “That is being talked about,” he said, chuckling. “The art of the threat.”
That threat also hangs over Europe, South Korea and Japan, all major sources of imported automobiles for American consumers. The potential for American car tariffs has brought foreign officials to the negotiating table, with South Korea signing an updated trade deal last year, and Europe and Japan just now beginning negotiations. But those talks may be aimed more at receiving temporary protection from Mr. Trump’s auto tariffs than breaking new trade ground.
The president is required to decide whether to impose auto tariffs by May 18, but he has the option to exclude countries if they are currently in negotiations with the United States. For some foreign officials, the prudent choice has been to enter into limited negotiations with the United States, while hoping that will forestall any levies.
The European Union was set to give final approval Monday for a formal mandate to carry out trade negotiations with the United States. But relations remain tense. Last week, the Trump administration threatened the E.U. with tariffs in a fight over plane subsidies and the president tweeted that the bloc was “a brutal trading partner with the United States, which will change.”
European officials have also complained about Mr. Trump changing the objective. The two governments announced last July that they had reached an agreement with the United States to negotiate a trade deal on a limited scope of goods, only to find that American officials have since insisted on expanding that scope to include farm products.
“The president and administration threaten a lot but do not always follow through,” Peter Chase, a former diplomat who is a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Brussels, said in an email. “This does cause foreign governments to wonder how they should deal with Trump — will he or won’t he pull the trigger? How high do I need to make the cost to ensure he doesn’t?”
“总统和政府作出了很多威胁，但并不总是坚持到底，”美国的德国马歇尔基金会(German Marshall Fund)驻布鲁塞尔高级研究员、前外交官彼得·蔡斯(Peter Chase)说。“这确实让外国政府搞不清应该如何应对特朗普——他到底会不会付诸行动？我要付出多大的代价才能确保他不这么做？”
Some foreign leaders have determined the best approach is to draw out negotiations for as long as possible.
Last September, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to enter into bilateral trade talks with the United States. But those talks have been delayed as the Trump administration battled with China and other nations. For Japan, that has been a welcome distraction.
“Yes, the guy is unpredictable, but I think if there are other issues occupying his attention, that means less chance that he would turn against Japan,” said Takuji Okubo, managing director and chief economist at Japan Macro Advisors.
“没错，这个人是不可预测的，但我认为，如果有其他问题占据了他的注意力，那么他转而针对日本的可能性就会降低，”日本宏观顾问公司(Japan Macro Advisors)总经理兼首席经济学家大久保卓治(Takuji Okubo)表示。
Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s economic and fiscal policy minister, was expected to begin preliminary talks with Robert E. Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, on Monday in Washington. Japanese officials have been willing to enter into an agreement on goods and some services, but said they planned to resist commitments on managing the Japanese currency or limiting automobile shipments to the United States.
预计日本经济财政大臣茂木敏充(Toshimitsu Motegi)将于周一在华盛顿与美国贸易代表罗伯特·E·莱特希泽(Robert E. Lighthizer)开始初步谈判。日本官员一直愿意就商品和一些服务达成协议，但表示他们计划抵制有关管理日元或限制向美国出口汽车的承诺。
The lack of certainty from the United States has prompted its trading partners to seek comprehensive deals elsewhere. Japan, along with Canada and Europe, have been entering into negotiations with other countries to try to diversify away from the United States. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multicountry trade pact that Mr. Trump withdrew from, has already gone into effect, as have European trade agreements with both Japan and Canada.
Chinese negotiators have also tried to buy time and hedge against Mr. Trump’s changing whims. Beijing has been hesitant to commit to a summit meeting with the United States until all of the details of the wide-ranging agreement they are negotiating with the United States are ironed out. They are wary that Mr. Trump will decide at the last minute that the deal isn’t good enough and send President Xi Jinping away empty-handed, as Mr. Trump did when he met the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi in February.