Hope Springs Eternal As Shutdown Risk Fades, Xi To Meet Lighthizer, Mnuchin

Hope Springs Eternal As Shutdown Risk Fades, Xi To Meet Lighthizer, Mnuchin

Wednesday is shaping up to sound a lot like Tuesday on the shutdown front and also with regard to the trade talks.

As far as the border security deal a bipartisan committee of lawmakers managed to cobble together while racing to beat the clock ahead of this week’s deadline, Trump sounds as though he’s inclined to sign it.

We talked about this on Tuesday and also on Monday evening when initial reports indicated that the total amount earmarked for border barriers wasn’t even close to the upper end of the range that was bandied about last weekend, let alone in the ballpark of the $5.7 billion figure that Trump insists is necessary.

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For his part, Mitch McConnell told reporters late Tuesday after briefing Trump that he hopes the president will sign in. “He’s got a pretty good deal here”, McConnell said.

“I think he will sign it, I think the president will sign it”, the Freedom Caucus’s Mark Meadows remarked, adding that Trump’s support for the legislation will be “reluctant” and that “obviously”, the president “will have to use executive actions to secure our borders.”

Yes, “obviously”. Because if there’s anything that’s “obvious”, it’s that looting disaster relief funds and money set aside for other projects in order to build a wall on the southern border is a great idea.

At this juncture, it’s pretty clear that Trump is going to describe the money he’s getting in the deal as a “down payment” on the wall and then take a series of steps (likely stopping short of declaring a national emergency) to procure funds from other sources. Here’s The Washington Post with a bit of useful color on that:

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and others pointed specifically to a military program providing for the construction of roads and fences to block drug smuggling, which Blunt said could offer $881 million for the president’s purposes.

“The defense budget, I’m sure they very likely already have in mind what they’d like to do with that $881 million, but if the president was looking for $881 million that he controls, he can look at what they wanted to do with it and decide if barriers would be a more important use,” Blunt said. “It’s certainly a specifically approved use in drug trafficking areas, and these areas would all fit that definition.”

Democrats will doubtlessly (and tirelessly) scrutinize any such efforts.

Speaking of Democrats, an exasperated Chuck Schumer implored Trump to stop acting like a child on Tuesday. “Please Mr. President, nobody got everything they wanted in this bill, but sign it and don’t cause a shutdown”, he said, in a sad testament to just how frustrated everyone is with the White House.

Trump tweeted a string of nonsense on Tuesday evening after chatting with Richard Shelby, who the president described as “hard working”. “Looking over all aspects [of the deal] knowing that this will be hooked up with lots of money from other sources”, Trump said, adding that he’ll “be getting almost $23 BILLION for Border Security.”

As Bloomberg dryly notes on Wednesday, “it’s not clear how Trump arrived at the $23 billion figure.”

As far as trade goes, the South China Morning Post reports that Xi Jinping himself will meet with Lighthizer and Mnuchin in Beijing on Friday. That’s an ostensibly encouraging development, especially coming as it does just hours after Trump told reporters during a cabinet meeting (see first linked post above) that he would be willing to let the March 1 deadline on the negotiations “slide” if it looks like a “real deal” is in the cards.

“In addition, a banquet would be hosted for the US delegation in ‘a Chinese cuisine restaurant’ in downtown Beijing later this week, with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He expected to toast the US delegates”, SCMP goes on to report, citing sources close to the matter.

I sounds like Xi’s meeting with Lighthizer and Mnuchin is a courtesy, meant to mirror Trump’s meeting with Liu He.

The implication appears to be that Lighthizer, Mnuchin and Liu will attempt to at least get a draft of something that can serve as the centerpiece for a meeting next month or perhaps in April between Trump and Xi. Presumably, Trump will want to turn that into a spectacle for the ages in order to ensure he squeezes the maximum amount of press coverage out of this ahead of 2020.

Whatever the case, all of the above is ostensibly positive for global equities and indeed, the good mood on Wall Street carried over into the Asian session overnight. The SHCOMP jumped the most in five weeks, rising nearly 2% on the session.

Hope springs eternal – even when Donald Trump runs the world.

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