Lighthizer not counting on China breakthrough ahead of trip

- Mei 01, 2018

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Tuesday that getting China to change longtime trading practices which are hurtful to U.S. interests would be “a big, big challenge” for the Trump administration.

“Our list of things that are troubling is very long,” Lighthizer said at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event just ahead of high-stakes trade talks in Beijing set to begin later this week.

Lighthizer is part of the high-level U.S. delegation that hopes to begin the process of negotiating some form of a truce between the two nations amid an escalating trade fight in which both heavyweights have threatened billions in tariffs.

“I’m always hoping but not always hopeful,” Lighthizer said. “It’s a big, big challenge. There’s a very different system over there and a system that, in all honesty, has worked very well for the Chinese.”

The trade chief said it wasn’t his goal to “change the Chinese system,“ which he accuses of trying to dominate global markets for new technologies and advanced industries by leveraging a closed market, billions in subsidies and a lack of competition.


“If they want to do it, that’s fine, but I have to be in a position where the United States can deal with it, where the United States isn’t a victim of it,” he said.

Lighthizer stressed that Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” initiative is an industrial policy that aims to dominate technologies of the future on a massive scale.

“They did this in steel,” he said. “They did it in aluminum. They did it in solar. They did it in semiconductors. This is how they do it.”

“Now they’re saying we want to do it in all of these areas, many of which will determine the kind of economy that we have in the United States,” he added.

Lighthizer will be traveling with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro.

“We can’t really prejudge, we’ll sit down, we’ll have a conversation,” he said without mentioning any of the specific demands the U.S. is bringing to the table.


Lighthizer’s conversation at the Chamber with private equity firm boss David Rubenstein was a rare appearance by President Donald Trump’s trade chief in the bowels of an organization that has railed against the administration’s trade policies.

Chamber President Tom Donohue, meanwhile, called for “significant systemic reforms” in China but warned against tariff action.

The U.S. has threatened to slap tariffs on more than $150 billion worth of Chinese imports. Beijing has responded by threatening tariffs on more than $50 billion of U.S. imports representing about 39 percent of the total goods the U.S. sends to China.

“We are deeply concerned that the proposed tariffs and escalating tariff threats from the administration will not effectively advance our goal of changing these harmful Chinese practices,” Donohue said.

He said he wanted the administration to work “collectively” with U.S. industry, Congress and foreign trading partners “to adequately address China‘s unfair trade practices in ways that maximize the likelihood of real, enforceable solutions.”


 

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