Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward:
Sonny Perdue gave a presentation in the Situation Room on May 4 on the role of agriculture in trade. Sensitive intelligence showed that if the United States imposed new tariffs on China, the Chinese would retaliate with their own tariffs.
The Chinese knew exactly how to inflict economic and political pain. The United States was in kindergarten compared to China’s PhD. The Chinese knew which congressional districts produced what products, such as soybeans. They knew which swing districts were going to be important to maintain control of the House. They could target tariffs at products from those districts, or at a state level. The Chinese would target bourbon from McConnell’s Kentucky and dairy products from Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin.
Several days later Wilbur Ross laid out the reasoning on the importance of trade deficits. Echoing the president, Ross said trade deficits are the lodestar and were a mark of our economic instability and weakness. The president was focused on trade deficits, he reminded everyone, and they ought to be focused on them.