U.S. industry groups and lawmakers fret over Trump’s China trade deal eagerness

Vastavam web: President Donald Trump’s decision to delay a steep tariff hike on Chinese goods as he touted progress in weekend trade talks was greeted with a mixture of relief and dread among U.S. industry groups and lawmakers on Monday. Some expressed concerns that after nearly eight months of tit-for-tat tariffs roiling global financial markets, disrupting manufacturing supply chains and shrinking U.S. farm exports, Trump could end up settling for a deal that increases commodity sales to Beijing while doing little to change China’s underlying trade practices and industrial policies.

Tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports had been set to rise to a prohibitive 25 percent from the current 10 percent if no deal was reached by Friday.
“Glad 2 hear that Pres Trump won’t be increasing tariffs on China March 1 but I hope Lighthizer/Trump won’t take a half deal as a good deal,” tweeted Senator Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the trade and tax-focused Senate Finance Committee.

The Trump administration has been pressing China for specific commitments for sweeping changes to protect intellectual property rights, end cyber-theft of trade secrets and practices that coerce U.S. companies to turn over technology to Chinese firms. The United States also wants to curb Beijing’s industrial subsidies, which Washington says fuels excess production. In his Feb. 5 State of the Union address, Trump said a China trade deal “must include real, structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs.”

“Trump has clearly put his negotiators on notice that he wants a deal,” said Eswar Prasad, a trade professor at Cornell University and former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China department. “This raises the chances of a deal but makes it harder for the U.S. to pressure China into making significant concessions related to its industrial and economic strategies.”

Farmers “will be treated better than they have ever been treated before!” if a deal is made, he tweeted. While some industry groups, including the Retail Industry Leaders Association, cheered the delay for averting price increases on thousands of consumer goods, others simply called the delay “encouraging.”National Association of Manufacturers chief executive Jay Timmons urged Trump to press ahead “with a rules-based agreement that ends (China’s) intellectual property theft and other significant unfair trade practices.”

“China’s forced technology transfers and IP theft practices are unfair and must be addressed,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, the new Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee. Lighthizer, who has been arguing for a tougher U.S. stance on reforms to the Chinese economy for years, will update lawmakers on the progress of the talks when he testifies before the Ways and Means committee on Wednesday.