Trump Administration Positions for a Tougher Stance in U.S.-China Trade

United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer applauds as President Donald J. Trump signs the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement alongside Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Nov. 30. | White House, photo by Shealah Craighead

Could USTR Robert Lighthizer at the helm of U.S.-China trade talks be the linchpin to success?

As both the American and Chinese trade teams digest commitments made during President Donald Trump’s dinner meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the G20 Summit, it’s still unclear what exactly will come from the 90-day pause on tariff increases.

However, news that United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is leading point for this next phase of U.S.-China trade negotiations suggests that the Trump administration is renewing its commitment to ending China’s unfair trade practices, which have long gone unchecked.

Lighthizer has an extended history of criticizing Chinese trade, opposing the country’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001.

This November a 53-page report released by the Office of the United States Representative detailed the unfair trade and intellectual property policies that advantage Chinese industry and found that these practices are ongoing despite China’s promises:  

“As the evidence gathered in this update demonstrates, China fundamentally has not altered its acts, policies, and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation, and indeed appears to have taken further unreasonable actions in recent months.”

Just how much Lighthizer will be able to accomplish in this short period of time during which trade talks will take place is unclear – resolving over 20 years of unfair trade practices over the course of 90 days sounds tricky, to say the least — but he’s pulled off tight deadlines before.  

When the clock was running out for a new treaty to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, Lighthizer managed to deliver the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which was signed during the G20 Summit and will make its way through Congress.

So here’s hoping that Lighthizer pulls through again, keeping the U.S. trade team on course to hold China accountable and put an end to the trade cheating that has so harmed our nation’s workers and communities.