For the last three years, the Trump administration's foreign policy has largely consisted of fawning over authoritarian leaders, trying to extort political favors and getting impeached for it, and threatening other countries with tariffs and trade wars. For a brief moment on Wednesday, it looked like the next trade war target would be Wakanda, the setting for the Marvel movie Black Panther, the source of the world supply of vibranium, and, obviously, completely fictional.
Francis Tseng, a fellow at the Jain Family Institute, was researching the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Tariff Tracker, a database of the costs on specific imports and exports from foreign nations, when he noticed that the Kingdom of Wakanda was among the countries listed. It was so absurd that it made him temporarily doubt his own grasp of Marvel trivia. "I definitely did a double take," Tseng told NBC News. "I Googled Wakanda to make sure it was actually fiction, and I wasn’t misremembering. I mean, I couldn’t believe it."
Tseng tweeted screenshots of his discovery on Wednesday morning:
The entries disappeared from the tariff tracker shortly after, but NBC News managed to preserve some of the details of the U.S.-Wakanda trade policy before it got deleted: "Yellow potatoes had to maintain a '0.5 cent/kg' base rate when shipped in from the fictional East African nation, while frozen Chinese water chestnuts were tariff free if the U.S. decided to import them from Wakanda. Cows were also tariff free."
When Wakanda vanished from the list, it caused some people on Twitter to speculate that Donald Trump was trying to start a trade war with the non-existent African country. The truth was a little more mundane. In a statement, USDA spokesperson Mike Illenberg wrote, "Over the past few weeks, the Foreign Agricultural Service staff who maintain the Tariff Tracker have been using test files to ensure that the system is running properly. The Wakanda information should have been removed after testing and has now been taken down."
That's probably in Wakanda's best interest, frankly. As Tseng pointed out in a follow-up tweet, historically the U.S. hasn't done great things to countries with valuable resources. "FWIW, the US would no doubt try to liberalize Wakanda's markets and flood it with cheap subsidized corn," he wrote. And if that failed, the Trump administration could just try to back a coup.
A layman's take on the biggest movie of all time.
Originally Appeared on GQ