(Conservative Tribune) – Are President Donald Trump’s tariffs merely threats to trading partners who’ve taken the U.S. for granted for too long? If so, they could be bearing fruit in China.
According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, the Chinese have offered to buy $70 billion in farm products from the United States if the tariffs are dropped.
Chinese officials reportedly made the offer during negotiations with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who was in Beijing for trade talks last week.
Officials in China have been very public about their opposition to any changes to the existing order, including tariff raises of any sort — be they punitive for China’s trade practices or part of a general tariff-raising by the Trump administration.
“The attitude of the Chinese side remains consistent,” the Chinese government said in a statement relayed through Xinhua, the state-run news network.
“Reform and opening-up as well as expanding domestic demand are China’s national strategies. Our set pace will not change.
“All economic and trade outcomes of the talks will not take effect if the U.S. side imposes any trade sanctions including raising tariffs,” it added.
However, in private, Chinese officials seemed to be a bit more accommodating, offering to purchase $70 billion of U.S. agricultural products if the tariffs levied on certain Chinese products were lifted.
Those tariffs were separate from the steel and aluminum tariffs that were much in the news this past week, although part of the aim was similar: In both cases, the Trump administration thought America was getting a relatively poor deal from the nations involved.
The administration had made agriculture a particular source of grievance with the Canadians, who talk a good game on free trade but levy extremely harsh tariffs on agricultural goods.
China, meanwhile, has been criticized for its trade practices — such as stealing intellectual property — as well as protectionism of its own.
President Xi Jinping has promised to open up China’s markets and end some of its more burdensome trading practices.
Now, China is offering to more or less buy $70 billion in American products, including soybeans, corn, natural gas, crude oil, coal and others.
As a conservative, my personal belief is that tariffs generally don’t end well. They should only be used for a few things, including punishing nations whose record on trade abuses is exceptionally bad.
I’ve been a bit wary about the Trump administration using tariffs to push Canada and Mexico to the negotiating table over NAFTA, although I don’t particularly want to hear Justin Trudeau’s protectionist government in Ottawa giving lectures on free trade when the president does.
As for China, I’m significantly less wary, if just because China allows massive intellectual property theft and relies on free trade policies in other nations while steadfastly refusing anything except extreme protectionism.
That said, I’m still wary to a certain degree. However, this is a deal from China that wasn’t on the table before the tariffs and likely wouldn’t have been on the table otherwise. We’ll wait and see how this plays out, but this is definitely a positive development on the China front.