Chinese President Xi Jinping set out to charm the president. Looks like it worked.
Before President Trump left on his big trip to Asia, we called it a make-or-break moment for him on trade. Would he do as he long promised and stand up for American workers and manufacturers — or would he fall under the spell of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit-plus?
Well, we have our answer.
“I don’t blame China,” Trump said of the U.S.-China trade gap. “After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit… but in actuality, I do blame past administrations for allowing this out of control trade deficit to take place and grow.”
O.K., in fairness to Trump, past administrations did negotiate some poor agreements and provided lax trade enforcement. This is a longstanding problem, and it’s going to take some time to fix it.
But Trump took office 10 months ago. He is the current president, and it’s now on him to change the game — and his trip to China yielded practically nothing for American manufacturing workers and companies.
While the administration touted $250 billion in deals with China, a closer examination reveals that the math behind that figure is fuzzy; a $37 billion aircraft order from Boeing consists of previously announced deals, for example.
Meanwhile, Trump heads home with no progress on critical issues like China’s out-of-control industrial overcapacity or reliance on state-owned enterprises. Even Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that the deals struck with China were “small in the grand scheme of things” and admitted that “we have a lot more work to do.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Trump treated China “with kid gloves.”
“The president may not blame China, but I do, and so do millions of Americans who voted for him and others who have lost their jobs at the hands of China’s rapacious trade policies,” Schumer said in a statement. “After campaigning like a lion against China’s trade policies, the president is governing like a lamb.”
As AAM’s own Scott Paul noted, there’s actually something Trump could do right now to move the needle when it comes to China trade, and he doesn’t need China to go along with it. He doesn’t even need Congress!
“The first thing President Trump must do when he returns to the United States is complete the Section 232 investigations on steel and aluminum and deliver on his promise to America’s factory workers,” Paul said.
A growing contingent of Members of Congress agree, by the way. More than 120 Members from both parties have written to President Trump asking him to move forward with the investigations, which are critical to safeguarding American-made steel and aluminum from foreign threats.
“The uncertain timeline has had considerable negative economic impact. Since the investigations were announced, steel imports have risen 21 percent as foreign countries have rushed product into the U.S. market in anticipation of promised action,” Booker wrote. “Further delay only compounds the problem.”
The Virginia senators echoed Booker.
“We are deeply concerned that the Administration has indicated that it wants to wait until the completion of tax reform to make its decision,” Kaine and Warner write. “We urge you to provide our affected workers and relevant industries the certainly they need.”
America's workers are concerned too. President Trump has the power to act, the question is whether he will.