by Natalia Castro
While some have been critical of President Donald Trump’s use of tariffs to win the trade war with China, one analyst is arguing these tariffs have been one of many tools used by the Trump administration to push China to comply with fairer trade deals.
Last week on the Conservative Commandos Radio Show Senior Policy Advisor at America First Policies Curtis Ellis joined Natalia Castro to discuss the U.S. trade relationship with China. Ellis noted how China has cheated the U.S. and the entire world out of billions by abusing trade laws to their benefit. For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Trump Administration is forcing China to the negotiating table and presenting an opportunity for real change.
Ellis argued, in the long run, the Trump trade agenda will boost U.S. productivity and save our technology from Chinese theft.
While China has come close to deals before only to back out and continue cheating, Ellis notes that this situation is different for one key reason: Bob Lighthizer.
Ellis explained, “Leading out team of negotiators is Bob Lighthizer, he is the U.S. Trade Representative. This is General Patton in the trade world. He is seasoned. He is serious. He is tough. He takes no guff. And he knows when he is being played and he doesn’t stand for it.”
Ellis explains how Lighthizer’s previous experience moderating trade disputes with Japan in the 1980’s has prepared him to “negotiate with the best”.
The President has been highly critical of China’s ability to abuse the World Trade Organization to receive better trade arrangements as a “developing country”. Lighthizer held this view all the way back in 1997 when he opposed China’s entry into the organization as a “disaster for this country”.
Lighthizer also led the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada to create the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
Other analysts concerned about China’s rise to economic power agreed with Ellis’ assessment.
Michael Wessel, a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a congressional watchdog agency, said in an email to the San Francisco Gate, “If there’s anyone who can successfully conclude the negotiations, it’s Bob… The last time the U.S. had to deal with a country employing a range of predatory and protectionist policies, it was Japan, and Bob had a prominent role. He’s got the knowledge, the creativity and the commitment to get it done. And right now, he’s got the president’s trust. That’s a powerful combination.”
Americans for Limited Government Vice President of Public Policy Robert Romano noted that critics of Lighthizer and President Donald Trump “appear opposed to even attempting to negotiate with China from any position of strength including the use of tariffs. But isn’t that whole point of trade agreements, to get to position of lower tariffs? How would you ever get to free trade if you cannot even negotiate with leverage, like a higher tariff position, to get the goal, which is a reciprocal, lower tariff position from both parties? China needs to feel the same pain we feel in order to trade away its own tariff and non-tariff barriers.”
Romano added, “The American people are fortunate that President Trump and U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer understand what leverage is — and how to use it. If anyone can get a better deal with China, they can. And if not, then the tariffs will go up even higher. Trump’s not bluffing.”
This year, the U.S. trade deficit with China rose to a 10 year high, and is on track to beat last year’s record highs. But with Lighthizer in the front seat, this trade conflict may come to an end and result in economic success for both countries. But U.S. leaders have been fooled by China before, Ellis warns, and it will take strength and resolve to prevent any further cheating from this growing super power.
President Trump for his part appears confident that a deal can be reached. On Dec. 6, Trump tweeted a “statement from China,” saying: “The teams of both sides are now having smooth communications and good cooperation with each other. We are full of confidence that an agreement can be reached within the next 90 days.”
Trump added, “I agree!”
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Natalia Castro is a contributing editor and policy analyst at Americans for Limited Government.