During a press conference held in the Oval Office on Friday, the lead trade negotiator for the United States, Robert Lighthizer, discovered that the contract terminology of a trade agreement was much too difficult for Donald Trump to understand and ended up changing it for the president, much to the amusement of a representative from China and all of the reporters who were assembled at the White House.
As Huffington Post reports, while Lighthizer initially tried to explain the terminology of trade agreements to Trump, he eventually gave up and was able to cleverly change the name of the same document to something that the president would be more familiar with and better understand.
The confusion first began when a reporter asked Donald Trump if he had any idea how long the “memorandums of understanding” that the United States were working on with China to try and resolve trade disputes would last.
As Trump replied to the reporter, “I don’t like MOUs because they don’t mean anything.”
Realizing that the president was genuinely baffled by by these memorandums, Lighthizer attempted to gently correct Trump and explained that despite the terminology that was employed, these MOUs were essentially trade agreements.
“An MOU is a contract. It’s the way trade agreements are generally established. It’s an actual contract between the two parties. A memo of understanding is a binding agreement.”
Watch Chinese official laugh out loud as Trump and his trade chief argue on terminology. https://t.co/FfKQ2BtPnu— Slate (@Slate) February 24, 2019
To further illustrate his point, Lighthizer then said, “It’s detailed, it covers everything. It’s a legal term; it’s a contract.”
Undaunted, Trump continued to disagree about the wording used, waving his hand around as he did so, and retorted, “A memorandum of understanding is exactly that: It’s a memorandum of what our understanding is. How long will that take to put into a contract?”
At this point there was much stifled laughter coming from the crew of assembled reporters, and Lighthizer quickly shot back that in the future, rather than use the ‘memorandum of understanding’ terminology that was so confounding to the president, he would make sure he called this document a ‘trade agreement’ so as to not confuse Trump again.
“From now on we’re not using ‘memorandum of understanding’ anymore. We’re going to use the term ‘trade agreement’. We’ll have the same document. It’s going to be called a trade agreement. We’re never going to have an MOU again.
Donald Trump appeared rather pleased with this change of wording and simply murmured, “Good,” while China’s trade representative and the reporters continued to chuckle over the president’s misunderstanding of the wording of the trade agreement.