US Administration aids told media sources recently that the president intends to announce a series of trade restrictions targeting China.
The reports go back to one of Trump’s key campaign promises of cracking down on alleged abuses the United States suffers at the hands of Chinese market practices. Throughout the 2016 race, Trump lambasted the PRC for taking advantage of the US, inflammatorily referring to China’s actions as economic “rape.” The phrase “they’re ripping us off” was a regular assertion by Trump from as early as 2015.
Trump’s stance on China is of course nested in a broader attitude of American protectionism when it comes to international trade. Since taking office, Trump has acted several times on this ideology. His administration withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership in January, one of the first orders of business of the new White House. Since then, Trump has also threatened to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
China specifically has had a special place within Trump’s anti-globalist worldview. “I don’t blame China,” Trump told reporters in November. “After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of their citizens? I give China great credit.”
Trump’s trip to the far east to speak with his Chinese counterpart two months ago was supposed to be largely about resolving some of these issues, especially the substantial trade deficit the US maintains with the PRC. Many saw the trip as a series of lost opportunities to settle trade controversies, this despite the over $250 billion in specific deals reportedly being closed over the course of the visit. This was because many central controversies between the countries were left unresolved. Take for instance the issue of free and open trade across Indo-Pacific waterways that the administration has accused China of trying to undermine aggressively. This issue, along with other hot points such as allegations of intellectual property theft of US technology in China, were not resolved.
Trade is one of a handful of major policy areas on which the president can act independently. There is no requirement for him to obtain the approval of Congress to take many of the steps to further his policy goals. It looks likely that Trump is planning to capitalize on this privilege. One administration official was quoted stating it is “very likely” the president will greenlight tariffs of some kind aimed at China.
With the State of the Union address coming in just three weeks time, the public will likely learn more important details of Trump’s plans shortly.