The America First team is gaining ground inside the White House.
Donald Trump’s decision to make CIA director Mike Pompeo his Secretary of State, replacing globalist Rex Tillerson, strengthens the president’s hand in the coming clash with China over the protection of American technology and innovation from foreign predation.
“It says to China: ‘You are our enemy,” CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Tuesday. “This about China being our intellectual and economic enemy.”
With Tillerson’s ouster, the ranks of the forces arrayed against the economic nationalists in the administration have become very thin. Gary Cohn, who resigned last week, is set to be replaced soon, most likely with Larry Kudlow. While Kudlow is not a fan of tariffs and other so-called ‘protectionist’ measures, he is a true believer in standing up to China’s trade abuses.
The leading Trump administration opponents of an aggressive stance on trade are now Jim Mattis and HR McMaster, according to people familiar with the matter.
Tillerson had been responsible last year for delaying the announcement of the administration’s decision to initiate the crackdown on China’s intellectual property abuses, arguing that it would hinder other diplomatic goals. He was widely seen within the administration as a drag on the momentum on trade actions.
Pompeo himself does not have a strong record on trade. As a member of Congress, where he represented the fourth district in Kansas, Pompeo voted for free trade agreements, including the Korea Trade Agreement and the Columbia Trade Promotion Agreement.
But Pompeo is seen as backing the president’s view that the defense of American interests requires the U.S. to take a tough stance against global rivals.