The president surprised his critics after arriving in London for the NATO summit this week by musing that he’s perfectly willing to wait until after the 2020 election if that’s what it takes to secure a comprehensive trade deal, saying, “it’s gotta be right” before he’ll commit to any agreement.
China has expressed willingness to increase its purchases of U.S. agricultural products in exchange for tariff relief as part of a “phase one” deal that could be completed by the end of the year. However, Trump’s comments at the NATO summit make it clear that he won’t abandon the strategic counter-tariffs that are strangling China’s economy unless the communist regime makes verifiable, enforceable commitments to end its wide-ranging trade abuses, particularly the systematic theft of technology from U.S. companies.
That display of strategic patience shouldn’t come as a surprise because the president has been a staunch advocate of renegotiating the United States’ trade relationships for decades—even when the general consensus on both sides of the political aisle held that globalism was an unmitigated good. In 1988, as a New York businessman, he was sounding the alarm about the United States’ persistent trade deficits. Since assuming the presidency, he’s completely restructured this country’s approach to international trade in order to correct the imbalance, regardless of the criticism from free-trade fundamentalists and opportunistic political opponents.
While his detractors fixate on the short-term costs associated with tariffs, Trump is focused on mitigating the far greater costs associated with this country’s failure to confront bad actors who have taken advantage of our leniency. While the U.S. economy can easily withstand a few temporary tariffs, the same can’t be said for China, which has already seen its GDP growth drop to the lowest level since 1992 as U.S. counter-tariffs buffet its export-dependent economy.
Make no mistake, signing the right deal with China—and not just any deal—is essential to the United States’ long-term prosperity. Our longstanding practice of ignoring China’s brazen technology theft, corporate espionage, and illegal subsidies to state-owned corporations was an unmitigated disaster, providing a massive stimulus for China’s economic development at the expense of U.S. workers and businesses.
The only real advantage China has in these negotiations is that its totalitarian government can theoretically try to wait out the Trump administration. While Chinese leader Xi Jinping might be able to keep his economic house of cards from toppling for another year, though, the growing civil unrest in China will only get worse without a trade deal to revive growth—and that’s what makes Trump’s recent comments so significant.
As it becomes increasingly apparent that the Democrats’ politically motivated impeachment push will not only fail to oust Trump, but will boost his chances of reelection, the pressure is continuing to increase on the Chinese government. By casually floating the possibility of finalizing a trade deal after the U.S. presidential election, Trump is sending China a signal that he’s not going to make any rash election-year concessions.
Xi and his negotiators might as well accept the United States’ reasonable terms now, instead of continuing to endure economic pain for another year or more.
Jason D. Meister is an advisory board member of Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and managing director of Ackman-Ziff
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.