The Tell: Trump’s being cunning — not dumb — over China, says trade expert

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The tweeter-in-chief may have the last laugh in the trade skirmishes, suggests one Dutch expert.

“Does President Trump really not understand that a trade war is a lose-lose situation or is he playing a smart strategic game? There are indications the latter is the case,” writes ING’s Raoul Leering in a blog post.

Other countries depend much more on American demand for their products than the other way around, Leering notes.

“It is likely that China will, in the end, cut its losses and be willing to give Trump something,” he says.

“The American president is playing a dangerous game, but a potentially rewarding one for the U.S.,” adds Leering, who is head of international trade analysis for the Amsterdam-based financial giant.

Worries about a global trade war have persisted for weeks, weighing on markets SPX, +0.55% worldwide. U.S. stocks were trading higher Thursday, but the Dow industrials DJIA, +0.94% are down about 2% over the past month. While the Trump administration exempted most countries from its tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum, its recent targeting of Chinese goods has fanned fears.

“If Trump succeeds in getting more favorable terms of trade from his trading partners … he will emerge as the winner in the noisiest trade quarrel the world has seen in the last couple of decades. This would get him in the voters’ good books in the run-up to the midterm elections in the U.S. in November,” the ING expert says.

Read more: Trump adopts high-risk strategy in fight with China over unfair trade

And see: Here’s how a ‘trade skirmish’ could become a global ‘trade war’

Leering’s post — titled “Will Trump outsmart us all?” — provides the call of the day in Thursday’s Need to Know column.