2018-12-03 19:58:35 UTC
He came, he saw, and he took yet another step towards Making America Great
President Trump scored major successes at the G-20 summit that concluded
over the weekend in Argentina. Specifically, the community of nations agreed
in their official communique to "necessary reform" of the World Trade
Organization, a top White House priority, and recognized the decision of the
U.S. to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, and to still utilize "all
energy sources and technologies, while protecting the environment."
In addition, the Chinese promised to up their purchases of U.S.- made goods
and to discuss other demands in exchange for postponing an expected hike in
tariffs; President Xi also committed to designating the deadly drug Fentanyl
as a controlled substance in China, and vowed to help with de-nuclearizing
It was an all-round win-win for the president, who needed one. The White
House has been buffeted anew by the ongoing Mueller investigation and also
by threats of further inquiries and subpoenas from Democrats who are taking
control of the House in the aftermath of the midterm elections.
Moreover, Trump's signature efforts to reboot the tepid economy - efforts
which have been by any standard hugely successful - have lately collided
with his trade battles with China and other countries. The
still-challenging landscape for manufacturing in the U.S. was highlighted
recently by GM's announcement that it would be laying off nearly 15,000
Investors, too, have shown their concerns over Trump's tariffs on steel and
aluminum. The stock market has been volatile, worried about rising costs,
Federal Reserve rate hikes, and slowing global growth.
Bottom line: the G-20 produced some good news for the president, the country
and markets. Over the past several months, anti-Trump hyperventilating by
the left has obscured the progress the administration has made in boosting
growth, hiring and wages. People in the U.S. are better off than they were,
as shown by elevated consumer confidence and robust spending. Those workers
at GM in danger of losing their jobs are at least being terminated when
there are, according to the JOLTS survey, more than 7 million jobs currently
Hanging over the booming economy, though, has been the ongoing battle over
trade, which some describe as a self-inflicted wound by the White House. But
President Trump is correct: the international playing field is not level and
it needs to be fixed.
President Trump is not intent on overthrowing the rules-based order, as
critics charge; he wants to make it better.
There is no plausible reason why we charge imported European cars a tariff
of only 2.5 percent, while the EU imposes a 10 percent tax on cars exported
from our country. There is no excuse for the fact that Europe imposes higher
tariffs than the U.S. in 17 of 22 major consumer goods categories, as
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross argued in an op-ed last year.
Our problems with the EU pale in comparison with the damage done to our
country over time by China. It is impossible to detail the many ways in
which the Chinese have cheated the U.S. From demanding that our companies
operating there share their trade secrets to sending scientists to spy on
our universities to hacking into our corporations' most proprietary
information, Beijing has engaged in a decades-long pursuit of our
intellectual property, no holds barred.
They have also used subsidies of state-owned enterprises to crush
international competition and thrown up endless barriers to companies
wanting to compete in China.
These are not new allegations. In 2013, the National Bureau of Asian
Research published the IP Commission Report, which detailed China's
misbehavior - cheating which led them to agree with the "assessment by the
Commander of the United States Cyber Command and Director of the National
Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, that the ongoing theft of IP is
"the greatest transfer of wealth in history." Millions of jobs and hundreds
of billions of dollars in valuable intellectual property were vanishing into
China each year.
The relentless quest for technology that allowed China to climb the value
chain, to rise from manufacturing t-shirts to fighter jets, has been aided
and abetted by our biggest businesses, and by the World Trade Organziation.
Multinational corporations have put up with Beijing's cheating because they
wanted access to China's growing consumer market. Only recently have they
become more outspoken about China's abusive practices. The WTO has put up
with it because no one demanded a change.
Until now. President Trump is not intent on overthrowing the rules-based
order, as critics charge; he wants to make it better. The recent G-20
gathering was a step in the right direction. It could not have happened
without the clear threat of punitive tariffs on Chinese exports. The trade
skirmish has slowed China's growth to the weakest level in a decade, damaged
their currency, and rocked their stock market. Leading indicators for China's
economy are dropping, with manufacturing and exports weakening. Pressure on
President Xi as he traveled to the G-20 was extreme; his leadership has
recently been publicly criticized, a rare and unwelcome slap at his
increasingly autocratic rule.
China cannot be trusted to follow through on its promises. But, Americans
can celebrate the determination of the Trump White House to keep the
pressure on. In 90 days, if Beijing prevaricates, tariffs will increase. Of
that there is no doubt.
President Trump will get no credit from the liberal press for the progress
being made in our trade relations. But open-minded Americans should consider
this: it would have been very easy in the lead-up to the midterm elections
for the White House to have announced some sort of deal with Beijing, aimed
at pleasing Trump-supporting farmers who have suffered from the trade
battles or business leaders who fear for their bottom lines. Such an
announcement would have buoyed stock prices and helped GOP candidates tout
the strong economy.
The Trump White House has instead committed itself to exposing and
correcting a serious problem that has hurt American workers and businesses
and should be applauded by all; I'm not holding my breath