The Opportunity for a Chinese Trade Deal Is There, If Trump Can Seize It.

Scott Paul Director, AAM

As negotiations enter the finer points of the deal next week, it’s vital that Trump leverage the momentum his administration has cultivated in the trade talks and truly address China trade cheating.   

Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul writes in the Washington Examiner:

Trump, meanwhile, has prepared the ground to make it more favorable to U.S. negotiating positions. The threat of lasting tariffs on most Chinese exports into the American market has made an impression; it has added billions in costs to Chinese businesses, and therefore has drawn the Chinese side to the bargaining table.

It’s no easy feat to persuade China’s economic managers to make structural reforms to a wildly successful mercantilist model that would result in more parity for U.S. trade interests. It remains to be seen how far a deal will go.

Most likely, it won’t go far enough. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has been working diligently through a prescribed set of issues with his Chinese counterparts. Based on some reports, they’ve been able to make more progress on some issues, such as forced technology transfers and IP theft, than on others, such as scaling back state-owned enterprises and improving enforcement mechanisms. Those unaddressed issues may be the most important results of what will eventually come out of this.

And still, the window of opportunity is open. The time to deal is now.

It’s time to demand more market access for American firms; firmly enforced intellectual property rights; enforced labor standards for Chinese workers; equivalent standards and enforcement for pollution controls; and escalated tariffs, should China fail to meet its obligations, rather than a lengthy and frustrating consultation process.

But what if, instead, Trump loses a fight with congressional Democrats, or has an executive order halted by the courts, or catches too much grief from Iowa soybean farmers over sales in this trade dispute, and decides a simply finished deal will serve him best? What will be left on the table when that window closes?

If the administration ends negotiations having sold a hill of beans to China and extracted few meaningful reforms, it will be a long time again before the U.S. can reset this trade relationship. History doesn’t remember missed opportunities fondly.

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