Americans Deserve Trade Policy that Holds Violators Accountable
Letter to the Editor submitted to The Washington Post.
The Washington Post’s editorial, “Trade Offensive” (April 12) is indeed offensive to readers looking for an objective viewpoint on trade policy. Lawmakers from both parties, including scores who have supported free trade agreements, have been calling on the administration to respond to China’s illegal trade practices for years. The three steps cited in the editorial are a start, but much more must be done to ensure China plays by the rules it agreed to when it entered the World Trade Organization in 2001. If this is the last effort made by the administration to hold China accountable, then the Post is right about one thing—it may not be worth it.
The Post’s arguments contain flawed logic. The administration has been boosting China’s economy and allowing a flood of illegal imports into the United States by ignoring its rule breaking for the past seven years, yet China has not shown a willingness to cooperate on strategic issues, such as North Korea, which is cited in the editorial, despite this generous gift. If China’s commercial and political interests were so intertwined, it would already be cooperating. But it’s not. Holding China accountable for its trade violations won’t make things any worse.
Any so-called “trade war” will sap China’s economic energy, not ours. China depends on access to the U.S. market for its products in order to sustain its economic growth and manage its extraordinary labor market challenges. The United States eventually can find substitutes for its imports from China if necessary; China cannot find a substitute market for its exports. Who has the leverage? We do. And we should use it to guarantee that American companies and workers are operating in a truly free market that punishes distorting practices.
Finally, insisting that our trade partners play by the rules they agreed to is not protectionist pandering. It’s called holding someone accountable. In an era when we expect increased accountability from our own government, it’s shameful for the Post to suggest that a blind eye should be turned to international trade violations that are contributing to an enormous loss of American jobs and income.
The reasonable tariffs the administration imposed on some imported steel did no harm to our nation’s economy, but flawed trade policies certainly have. China’s $233 billion trade deficit with the United States is evidence enough that something’s wrong with our trade policy. The American people deserve a trade policy that calls for accountability, not one that turns a blind eye to illegal practices.
Scott N. Paul
Alliance for American Manufacturing