President Trump’s trade policy seems to have achieved the impossible

07-Dec-2019 Intellasia | USA Today | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Past administrations’ symbolic protocol exchanges with Chinese leaders were a fool’s errand: Opposing view

From Presidents Harry Truman to Donald Trump, the United States liberalised trade the most among developed countries. The average US tariff on dutiable goods is 4.5%, with the average tariff on all goods sitting at below 2%. Meanwhile, US goods face higher tariffs and many other barriers to entry abroad. Facebook still can’t operate in China, and US tech giants face a “digital services” tax in France.

Having the most-open market, the United States stands to gain the most from trade liberalisation. Yet, by the time Trump got elected, US offers to go from less than 2 percent to zero tariffs were no longer the enticement other countries coveted. What incentive did our major trade partners have to change anything when, year after year, they enjoy trade surpluses with America?

Making matters worse is China’s challenge to US power and overt mercantilism, which relies on government-sanctioned intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers from US companies.

If limited US leverage under existing world trade rules could not help Trump, a store of congressionally delegated power gave him broad flexibility to devise new import restrictions to disrupt the trade status quo and realign incentives for negotiations. Sections 232 (targeting industrial imports with national security tariffs) and 301 (targeting Chinese technology practices) gave him the necessary leverage.

Yes, Trump’s trade unilateralism represents a major departure from US policy since President Ronald Reagan. Yet, it has mostly survived judicial review. Furthermore, Trump has successfully renegotiated NAFTA now USMCA ensuring the long-term viability of North American automobile manufacturing. Ambassador Robert Lighthiser has also concluded negotiations with South Korea and Japan.

While negotiations with China have stalled, Trump seems to have achieved the impossible: getting the globalist elite to agree that past administrations’ symbolic protocol exchanges with Chinese leaders were a fool’s errand.


Category: China

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