Trump trade barriers are one of the ‘biggest risks’ in 2018, analyst says

  • U.S. lawmakers told the wireless carrier AT&T to put an end to its commercial ties with the Chinese phone maker Huawei, Reuters reported Tuesday citing sources
  • The U.S. has taken a more protectionist approach since President Trump took office
  • President Trump has criticized China for running a surplus against many international partners but he seems to be running out of arguments, a strategist said

The protectionist stance of U.S. President Donald Trump is one of the "biggest" risks in 2018, an analyst told CNBC on Tuesday morning.

"I think in 2018 one the biggest risks we face is the Trump administration moving from rhetoric into real policy, a real protectionist policy," Patrick Armstrong, chief information officer at Plurimi Investment Managers told CNBC.

"I don't think it's clear they are going to move in that way but it's definitely a risk," he noted.

Armstrong's comments come after U.S. lawmakers told the wireless carrier AT&T to put an end to its commercial ties with the Chinese phone maker Huawei, Reuters reported Tuesday citing sources. The same report added that the U.S. is against Huawei raising its market participation in the U.S. due to security concerns.

U.S. authorities have also prevented some deals between Chinese and American firms, citing national security concerns, including the blocking of MoneyGram's sale to Chinese payments firm Ant Financial.

The U.S. has taken a more protectionist approach since President Trump took office, citing international partners as a reason for its trade deficit. Data released last week showed that China's surplus with the U.S. hit a record high in 2017 of $275.81 billion. The previous record surplus took place in 2015, hitting $260.8 billion.

President Trump, who takes an "America First" approach when it comes to trade and foreign policy, has criticized China for running a surplus against many international partners. It has also blamed Beijing for keeping its currency undervalue on purpose. However, according to Miranda Carr, China macro strategist at Haitong, the U.S. is running out of arguments.

"Every time they (the U.S.) try to attack China on something like, say the currency, they say 'well your currency, you've kept it undervalue,' then they (China) will go, 'well it's rising now,' so that cuts that argument off," Carr told CNBC.

"Then with steel, the fact that (Chinese) exports have gone down 30 percent that cuts that argument off; so they (the U.S.) are now struggling. If you look at how the negotiations go, then they are now moving to aluminum, which is still a problem, but of course China is cutting back on aluminum production, cutting back on exports, so therefore it's taking some of those pressures away."

"If the U.S. keeps attacking China on certain areas then China goes 'well we've sorted it now, you don't need to take those actions.'"

President Trump is due to receive the results of two inquiries by the U.S. Commerce department on steel and aluminum shipments, which could ultimately prompt the president to issue sanctions against China.