The U.S. government is still shut down over President Donald Trump’s demand for money to build a wall on the southern border. Children, mainly from Central America, are dying in a desperate effort to cross that border and escape violence in their home countries. So how in the world did somebody in the Trump administration decide it might be a good idea to cut trade ties with some of those countries?
Though trade officials would not confirm it, an unnamed official told McClatchy last week that the administration is considering kicking the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Nicaragua out of the U.S. trade agreement to which they are parties, along with Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras.
The administration is right to be concerned about Nicaragua’s return to authoritarianism under President Daniel Ortega, and tougher measures may well be necessary to discourage his government’s violence against the opposition since protests erupted there last spring. In the cases of the Dominican Republic and El Salvador, it seems they may be collateral damage in the administration’s trade war with China. Despite the fact that the United States broke formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan when it normalized relations with China many decades ago, the Trump administration last year withdrew its ambassadors from the Dominican Republic and El Salvador, as well as Panama, after they broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of recognizing Beijing. China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and refuses to establish formal relations with countries that recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty.