All the hand wringing over President Donald Trump’s decision to impose additional tariffs on Chinese imports prompts us to ask the following questions:
Where were the soybean farmers, electric-car manufacturers, lobstermen, salmon fishermen and whiskey and cigar makers when China was dumping artificially low-priced steel and steel products on the United States?
Where were the free traders when the Mahoning Valley, once a leading steel-making region, was economically devastated with the collapse of the industry? More than 50,000 jobs were affected directly and indirectly.
Finally, where were the members of Congress from nonindustrial states when senators and representatives from the so-called Rust Belt for years kept urging a get-tough attitude toward China and other countries that were flooding the American market with cheap products?
The answer to those questions was that they put the interests of their states and their self-interests ahead of the national good.
Thus, as a full-scale trade war looms between the U.S. and China, which has long maintained barriers to free trade, we offer our unstinting support to President Trump as he seeks to level the playing field.
We recently criticized Trump for imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum coming from America’s allies, namely Canada and European nations, but we applauded his decision to penalize China. The Communist country has shown no shame for maintaining such a huge trade surplus with the United States.
Last week, Trump doubled down on the 25 percent tariff on steel products and 10 percent surcharges on aluminum products by announcing a 25 percent tariff on up to $50 billion on Chinese imports effective July 6.
FULFILLING CAMPAIGN PLEDGE
In announcing the move, the Republican president said he was fulfilling a campaign pledge to crack down on what he contends are China’s unfair trade practices and its desire to undermine U.S. technology and intellectual property.
That campaign pledge was one of the reasons the billionaire real-estate developer from New York City did so well in the predominantly Democratic Mahoning Valley. His attack on China and other countries struck a responsive chord with blue-collar, white male voters who blame unfair trade practices for the loss of their high-paying manufacturing jobs.
“We have the great brain power in Silicone Valley, and China and others steal those secrets,” Trump said last week on the TV show “Fox & Friends.”
The president said he was determined to “protect those secrets.”
He characterized America’s technological might and intellectual property as “the crown jewels for this country.”
Nor surprisingly, China has retaliated by announcing that it will raise import duties on a $34 billion list of American goods, including soybeans, electric cars and whiskey.
The Chinese government also announced it was scrapping agreements to narrow its multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States by purchasing more American farm goods, natural gas and other products.
The United States and China have the world’s biggest trading relationship, but official ties are increasingly strained over complaints that Beijing’s industrial development tactics violate its free-trade pledges and hurt American companies.
Europe, Japan and other trading partners raise similar complaints, but Trump has been unapologetically direct about challenging Beijing and threatening to disrupt such a large volume of exports.
China has attempted to play the victim by accusing the U.S. of being the “provocateur” of the war, but its record as a trading partner shows otherwise.
Indeed, the following comment by the Global Times, a newspaper published by the ruling Communist Party, speaks volumes: “China is a powerful guardian and has enough ammunition to defend existing trade rules and fairness.”
It shows just the level of dishonesty on the part of the leaders in Beijing, which is why President Trump is justified in taking a hard line against China.
Barring some last-minute negotiations to avert an all-out trade war, here’s what Americans can expect. On July 6, 545 products from the U.S., including orange juice, will be hit by an additional 25 percent tariff.
Chinese regulators also are considering a tariff hike on an additional 114 products, including medical equipment and energy products.
While we applaud the president for doing what past administrations failed to do, namely, punish China, we are aware that Trump has penchant for changing his mind on a whim.
We, therefore, urge him not to let the Chinese off the hook. They must pay for their arrogant attitude toward global trade.