SINGAPORE(Mar 19): The prospects of a trade war, which was for a while relegated to a low-level threat, have suddenly intensified in the past two weeks. The headline grabbers are US President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The measure was first released under the guise of a broader stance against unfair trade deals. However, it soon unravelled, with exemptions hinted at. Pared to its core, it shows a trade war policy clearly aimed at a single target — China.

The next headline was the blocking of the Broadcom deal. Never before has a sitting US president barred a deal over national security concerns ahead of two companies agreeing to a merger. The timing here is critical because this was not yet a done deal. It was a proposed deal that was killed in its tracks by a political decision.

The third headline grabber was the delivery by Twitter of the dismissal of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. His mooted replacement by Mike Pompeo delivers new ammunition for the next offensive in a trade war against China. Pompeo is an ultra-conservative and steadfastly anti-China.

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