Trump's 'Phase One' trade deal undercuts the anti-tariff crowd's arguments 

Trump's 'Phase One' trade deal undercuts the anti-tariff crowd's arguments 
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President Donald Trump announced a historic “Phase One” trade deal with China on Dec. 13. The agreement, expected to be signed by both countries next month, will slash $50 billion from the trade deficit, significantly reduce foreign market-rigging, and strengthen intellectual property protections for U.S. innovators.

Over the last two weeks, the anti-tariff crowd asserted that the president’s supposedly ineffective “trade war” was showing no signs of stopping and that it was likely to get more intense. Lacking regard for basic facts, most of these critics failed to report that, thanks in large part to the president’s tariffs, China’s industrial production has fallen to its weakest position in more than 17 years. Fearing the imposition of even more tariffs that the administration had scheduled for Dec. 15, China had no choice but to come to the negotiating table this week and accept the president’s Phase One deal.

Nevertheless, the million-dollar question remains: Now that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to discount the tariffs' success, will big business and the mainstream media continue trying to undercut the administration’s tariff agenda?

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The arguments they have peddled have always been outlandish; with the signing of the new trade deal, however, they are starting to lose their credibility entirely. For example, in response to the administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs on Argentina and Brazil, announced on Dec. 2, these detractors claimed that the administration implemented them for no reason other than to bail out the president’s failing trade negotiating tactics with China by pressuring other countries to cut off the People’s Republic. With the announcement of the Phase One deal, though, it’s clear that a bailout was the last thing that the president needed.  

Unfortunately, facts tend not to matter in Washington. Regardless of the proven success of the president’s tariffs, and irrespective of how terribly their arguments age, political and business operatives will do and say whatever they believe is necessary to achieve their desired outcome — even when it’s clear they are working against the interests of the working class.

The Wall Street Journal reported that American tariffs are “being blunted by trade cheats.” They use a process called “transshipping,” in which they send their goods to an intermediary country that is not subjected to U.S. tariffs as a means of getting their products into the United States.

In addition, special interests in the U.S. that rely on cheap foreign aluminum are pushing the Aluminum Price Examination (APEX) Act, a bill that would impose price controls in the U.S. aluminum industry. The objective seemingly is to lower the price of metal for businesses that aren’t willing — for the good of the U.S. economy and national security — to wait for the full effect of the Trump tariffs to come to fruition. As the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), along with 15 other conservative groups, have made clear, the APEX Act would be catastrophic for the smelters that President TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau spends millions on ad campaign to mitigate fears on excluded citizenship question Bloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders Democratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister MORE has finally helped to restart across the country. The bill would hurt the bottom lines of domestic companies and, by default, artificially increase the amount of foreign aluminum used and purchased in the United States.

For its part, the Trump administration already is working overtime to protect its winning trade agenda by stopping the tariff-cheaters. It is slapping hefty punishments on any country that the U.S. Commerce Department determines is violating U.S. law. Members of Congress should be getting on the same page. After all, Congress is not the United Nations. Just as they did with the president, Americans elected each member of Congress to protect the U.S. economy and to represent the concerns of differing regions of America — not those of other countries like Argentina, Brazil or China.

Rather than push counterproductive legislation, Congress should help the administration by passing meaningful bills that put America’s trade interests first. It can start with the U.S. Reciprocal Trade Act (USRTA), which would give the president the authority to match the tariff rates of anti-competitive countries like Argentina, Brazil and China if they refuse to lower theirs to U.S. levels. Common-sense measures like this one will restore fairness and equity to international trade.

The Phase One agreement proves that the Trump tariffs are working to advance the interests of U.S. farmers, manufacturing workers and consumers across the country. It’s high time for the rest of the Washington Beltway to respond accordingly — dismissing the media and big business’s baseless assertions and getting on the same page to turbocharge the U.S. economy and to protect American workers everywhere.

Corey R. Lewandowski is President Trump’s former campaign manager and senior adviser to both the Trump-Pence 2020 campaign and Great America Committee, Vice President Mike Pence's political action committee. He is co-author with David Bossie of the books “Trump’s Enemies” and “Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency.” Follow him on Twitter @CLewandowski_.