Trump Can’t Let up on China Now
Published in The Washington Post
on November 14, 2019
Trade talks with China have reportedly stalled because of its insistence that the United States remove or lower tariffs before a final deal is struck. That demand should be firmly rejected.
Tariffs are far from ideal, but they are the only serious leverage the United States has with China. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama tried to get the Communist government to change its ways without imposing tariffs or otherwise impeding trade relations. Those polite efforts went nowhere. China still manipulated its currency to gain unfair price advantages, unfairly subsidized favored companies, and used legal and illegal means to obtain advanced technology from U.S. and other Western companies.
President Trump’s tariff war hasn’t changed that, but it has brought China to the bargaining table for the first time. Those tariffs are hurting some U.S. businesses, especially farmers who relied on Chinese markets for their sales. But they are dramatically slowing the Chinese economy and have forced U.S. producers and consumers to look elsewhere for goods. Chinese economic growth has slowed to its lowest level in 30 years, and experts expect it to slow even more as U.S. tariffs start to bite even harder.
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Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.