President Donald Trump appears to be holding a Chinese tech executive hostage in hopes it will help secure a more favorable trade deal with Beijing — an unsavory move the Financial Times noted “smacks of using individuals as pawns in negotiations”.
Five days after a top executive of Huawei, the Chinese telecoms group, was arrested on a US request in Canada, President Donald Trump said he was willing to intervene — if it helped secure “the largest trade deal ever made”. The detention of Meng Wanzhou, one of China’s best known executives, was undoubtedly an incendiary step, escalating trade tensions with Beijing. But presidential interference in the case would send entirely the wrong message about the US justice system — and about how the administration conducts international affairs.
Trump has claimed he was unaware that Meng was sought for extradition and, initially, wasn’t in the know about her detention, though the FT noted it is nearly unthinkable that such a high-level arrest would not be shared with the president.
That Mr Trump would not be notified of such a sensitive case by his justice department strengthens the impression of a dysfunctional administration, whose different arms pursue their agendas with little co-ordination, if not in open competition. It strains credibility that his recent presidential predecessors would have been left in the dark in similar situations.
The president’s offer to do “whatever’s good for this country” regarding Ms Meng’s case reflects a dealmaker’s desire to put his talks with Mr Xi back on track, while extracting whatever advantage he can. But it amounts, in effect, to saying he is holding the Huawei CFO hostage as a trade negotiating chip.