Opinion: Trump takes tough stance with China
Once again, President Donald Trump is being forced to take bold action to break the impasse in what could be the most important trade negotiation in history between the United States and China.
Unless Chinese President Xi Jinping’s negotiators get serious and wrap up the deal — which has reportedly been imperiled after China “reneged” on previous commitments — their country is going to get hit with 25% tariffs on more than a half trillion dollars’ worth of goods they export to America each year.
Just as it took bold action by the president to bring China to the negotiating table in the first place, specifically his willingness to flex America’s economic muscle by imposing targeted counter-tariffs on Chinese goods, it will evidently take that same aggressiveness to get them over the finish line.
Unfortunately, every time President Trump is forced to take these actions to protect American workers, a chorus of naysayers warn that these America First trade tactics will lead to a “trade war” and unimaginable economic harm. This time is no different.
We here in Michigan know better than anybody that this knee-jerk, free-trade-first rhetoric is establishment blather. “Trade war” or not, the export-heavy Michigan economy is booming, driving our unemployment rate down to a historic low of 4% — virtually full employment.
When President Trump first imposed a 25% tariff on foreign steel and aluminum, we were told this would cripple the American auto industry. According to this theory, the extra money U.S. automakers would pay to buy American steel rather than unfairly dumped or subsidized foreign metals would eat up their profit margins.
The opposite happened. Despite a long term trend of consumers buying fewer new vehicles, manufactures and dealers are now making more on each sale. Meanwhile, the changes due to take effect once Congress ratifies the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement are slated to bring tens of thousands of automotive jobs back home to Michigan and the rest of the industrial heartland.
Needless to say, American metal producers have seen a corresponding boom from the steel and aluminum tariffs, which have finally enabled domestic firms to compete fairly and use the extra profits to hire new workers and invest in high tech factories.
For far too long, establishment politicians have presented us with a false choice between “free trade” agreements that put American workers at a disadvantage and protectionist policies that raise prices for consumers.
To the extent that there is any sort of choice here, the Trump economic boom has shown that the decision should be an easy one to make. Given a choice between cheap foreign goods and American jobs and industry, we should always aim to keep the latter.
Luckily, the corner has been turned on the outdated ideas that held America back in the past. This administration stands on the precipice of a historic deal with China that could establish fair and equitable trade between the world’s two largest economies.
We are on now nearing a major win that cracks down on Chinese theft of American intellectual property, discourages unfair practices that make it impossible for certain American industries to compete, and sustains the boom in traditional manufacturing employment America has enjoyed over the past two years.
If it takes an uncompromising position like this 25% tariff to get the Chinese to stop bluffing, then that’s just what it takes. President Trump isn’t known for speaking softly, but he does carry an awfully big stick that will metaphorically persuade China to deal fairly for the first time in decades.
Meshawn Maddock is the founder of Michigan Trump Republicans and co-chair of Donald Trump’s campaign in Michigan.