Asia Trip is a Make-or-Break Moment for Trump on Trade

President must deliver results when he meets with Chinese leaders

President Trump repeatedly promised to transform America's trade relationship with China — but so far he hasn't delivered, and his upcoming trip to Asia will prove whether he will be able to get the job done.

“One-sided trade with many Asian countries have led to factory closures and job losses," said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. "I'm glad Trump made trade relationships a priority, but without action, American workers continue to struggle."

The president rode to the White House on promises to cut trade deficits, label China a currency manipulator, and stop China’s surge of steel imports. So far, he is batting zero for three.

“After 10 months in office, American workers will be anxiously watching to see if you will turn your tough trade rhetoric into real action,” Paul wrote in a letter to the president. “Despite your campaign promises to crack down on unfair trade and negotiate better trade agreements, since taking office, your words on many issues have resulted in either inaction or confusion as to the path forward.”

Paul's letter, sent Tuesday, outlines how delayed trade promises have threatened domestic manufacturing jobs. Pointing to the Section 232 steel and aluminum imports investigations, Paul notes that imports have surged since the investigations were first announced. With over 21 percent more steel hitting America's shores, at least two Pennsylvania steel mills face layoffs, including one that produces armor plate used in the production of vehicles that protect service men and women from IED attacks in Afghanistan. 

"Our national security rests on a healthy industrial base," Paul wrote. "If domestic manufacturing capabilities deteriorate further, we may be forced to rely on countries like China and Russia to supply steel for our military and critical infrastructure needs. We cannot let that happen."

Meanwhile, China's steel overcapacity continues to haunt U.S. markets.

"China will only respond, and America will only benefit, if there are enforceable mechanisms to ensure that Beijing is living up to its commitments," Paul writes as he specified the need for strong enforcement of current trade laws due to over ten years of broken Chinese promises to cut capacity. "America’s trade enforcement laws are the backbone of U.S. trade law and represent that last line of defense for workers facing unfair trade."

These laws played a role when the administration decided to continue considering China a non-market economy for trade remedy purposes on October 26. The decision was widely expected and fully consistent with U.S. law and trade obligations. 

Paul called on the president to stand up for America's trade laws and to fulfill campaign promises to cut the growing trade deficit and open markets in countries like South Korea and China.

"Your upcoming travel to Asia offers a unique opportunity to rebalance America’s growing trade deficits in the region," Paul wrote. "We urge you to press for meaningful commitments to eliminate predatory trade practices and barriers to U.S. exports. If our trade partners are unwilling to make reforms, they should face real consequences that yield results and protect U.S. companies and their workers in the meantime."

To read Paul's full letter, visit AmericanManufacturing.org.