WASHINGTON—White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that China’s human rights violations, as well as the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, are key parts of the ongoing trade negotiations with Beijing.
“Human rights is a very important part of this,” Kudlow told Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo on Oct. 21. “That includes the freedom and democracy movement going on in Hong Kong. President Trump has made that very clear.”
Kudlow said the Trump administration has been engaged “in a very difficult struggle with China regarding trade, the economy, technology, human rights, [and] national security.”
“Now these things may be adjudicated over time. I don’t know. We are now having a more realistic view of China and the competition between the two countries,” he said.
China faces increased condemnation from the administration in recent months for its detention of more than a million Uyghur Muslims in so-called re-education camps in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang.
“I want to make clear that China’s repressive campaign in Xinjiang is not about terrorism. It’s about China’s attempt to erase its own citizens,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters during the United Nations General Assembly in September.
The Trump administration blacklisted 28 Chinese organizations on Oct. 7 for their involvement in human rights violations in China.
The list includes eight leading artificial intelligence and video surveillance companies that “have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in China’s campaign targeting Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities,” according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
In addition, Beijing’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy has been a growing concern for Washington.
The U.S. House of Representatives last week unanimously passed a series of measures to support the ongoing pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. On Oct. 15, lawmakers passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which requires the U.S. government to review each year whether the city should retain its trading privileges.
The “one country, two systems” framework that governs the relationship between Hong Kong and Beijing through 2047 allows the city to retain extensive autonomy and freedoms, including a separate legal system. This arrangement has enabled the United States to deal with Hong Kong as a separate entity and offer special treatment in the areas of visas, trade, and investments.
Lawmakers now want to make sure that Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous to receive special treatment from the United States.
In addition, the House passed the Protest Hong Kong Act, which bans the export of crowd control equipment to the city, where police have been accused of using excessive force against protesters.
The bills still must be passed in the Senate and sent to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
With respect to the recent partial trade deal with China, Kudlow voiced optimism, saying both sides “made a lot of progress.”
“So far, the mood music coming out of Beijing has been pretty good,” he said.
On Oct. 11, President Donald Trump announced that the United States reached a “phase one” trade agreement “in principle” with China, on intellectual property, financial services, and agriculture.
As part of the agreement, Beijing agreed to purchase “up to $40 billion to $50 billion” in agricultural products from the United States, according to Trump. In return, Washington suspended the tariff hikes on Chinese goods that had been scheduled for Oct. 15.
“President Trump has changed the narrative on China,” Kudlow said. “I don’t think anybody can possibly accuse him of being soft on China.”
There’s still a lot of work to be done between now and signing of the deal in mid-November, according to Kudlow, but both sides are “very close on opening financial services and the currency stability deal, which is essentially an IMF deal.”
Trump said earlier that there could be “a formal signing” with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in mid-November when both leaders come together at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Chile.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross played down the November target, saying the president is more committed to signing a proper deal than to a certain date.
“We would like to make a deal, but from our point of view, it has to be the right deal, and it doesn’t have to be in November,” he told Fox Business on Oct. 21. “That’s what’s the president is wedded to.”